(WTAJ) — Have you ever been driving and all of a sudden realized you don’t even remember driving the last few miles? It’s called “highway hypnosis” and it’s more common than you might think.
The phenomenon known as highway hypnosis is very similar to being on autopilot.
Imagine driving 100-plus miles down Route 66 and suddenly you realize you don’t even remember the past 15 miles. You didn’t fall asleep and you’re still cruising in your lane, but you were in a trance-like state.
The monotony of driving, especially down a highway, can slow down your brain and cause it to function on autopilot.
The same can happen as you drive through town and realize you’re at a red light, but don’t recall the past few minutes of driving.
Anyone can be subject to highway hypnosis, even on the most familiar routes to and from frequently visited places such as work, school, and even the grocery store, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Highway hypnosis happens more commonly on motorways than residential roads with less frequent changes in direction and speed, one study suggests.
According to Healthline, there are some warning signs you might notice, including:
- Heavy eyelids and frequent blinking
- Loss of concentration (brain fog)
- Wandering thoughts
- A dull or dazed feeling
- Slow reaction time
If you zone out while reading a book, you can just go back and re-read things. Doing so while driving can have much more dire consequences for not only yourself but others on the road.
Healthline offers some tips to help combat this unhelpful autopilot.
Have some caffeine. It can help boost your alertness. Even if you’re not feeling sleepy, sipping and eating can help your brain battle the monotonous drive.
Talking or singing. Whether it’s a hands-free call to a loved one, or belting out your favorite tunes like you’re on stage with Taylor Swift, either will certainly help keep your brain alert.
Other things you can do to combat highway hypnosis are to roll down your window, turn off the cruise control, and make sure your seat is upright/straight up to help maintain good posture so you don’t slip into an overly relaxed state.
You can also try a new road. With the advances in technology, you can easily pull up a map on your cellphone and get directions to try a different route.