Road Hypnosis
March 4, 2004 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Road hypnosis or driving hypnosis (is there a better term?): you've been staring at the highway for so long you zone completely out, your mind goes somewhere else. What do you call this when the computer does it to you? Your eyes stop focusing and blank-stare; brain feels kinda numb-squishy like a sponge full of kool-aid, or like your face after a grain alcohol jello-shot (back in college.) Happen to you? Antidotes?

Imagine you've been driving ten hours straight and it's 4:00 a.m. and you pull into a truckstop, and your knees are wobbly and your hands shaky and nothing feels real, everything feels like a dream, things are fuzzy and blurry and you can't seem to focus your eyes or look at anything for more than a second or two, and your voice when you order coffee sounds a million miles away, an echo of an echo of yourself.

Lately I feel like that after work. Not good.
posted by Shane to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do something physical like going to the gym or taking a walk to clear your mind.
posted by tomorama at 4:38 PM on March 4, 2004

Nothing that some sleep and a good fuck won't cure.
posted by scarabic at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2004

take more breaks during the workday, getting up and walking around and away from the computer -- that should help prevent it.
posted by amberglow at 4:49 PM on March 4, 2004

You be illin'.
posted by staggernation at 5:03 PM on March 4, 2004

The ergo folks where I work--and I just had an audit--told me that I need to get up and walk around at least once an hour--and to set an alarm to remind me, if necessary.

Also, they totally adjusted my chair for me and that's been a tremendous help, amazingly enough.

If your workplace has an ergonomics person, you may want to talk to them.
posted by eilatan at 5:24 PM on March 4, 2004

Possible symptoms of malnutrition. Too much coffee and not enough nutrients. Get energy from high-nutrient foods not drugs.
posted by stbalbach at 5:28 PM on March 4, 2004

Indeed, stbalbach. I'm a senior computer science major, and I constantly shake my head when I overhear other students bragging about the two red bulls they just pounded to stay awake for class, or see them make a mad dash for the soda machine during mid-class break for a Mountain Dew refill. It's almost becoming some kind of sick status symbol in the technology field. That crap will kill you, or at least give you diabetes.

Anyway, not to drift the topic or insult - I'm just making a point. If you occasionaly reach for a snickers bar and a pepsi, try a granola bar and a bottle of water instead.
posted by tomorama at 5:48 PM on March 4, 2004

I was having something like that about 18 mos. ago, and got my eyes checked. New glasses with the slightly-changed prescription fixed me up good. Also, I agree that taking breaks is very important with computers.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:52 PM on March 4, 2004

Road hypnosis or driving hypnosis (is there a better term?):

white line fever
posted by iconomy at 6:13 PM on March 4, 2004

That's generally when I lay off the bong hits.
posted by mischief at 7:05 PM on March 4, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for being nice to my drama. A recent change in my system meant a smaller font for me after four years of staring at the same size. That alone was worth two days of headaches. Maybe I need new glasses now too. Or a new job.

If your workplace has an ergonomics person, you may want to talk to them.

Thanks. I'm going to ask HR to see the ergonomics person tomorrow just to see their reaction. No, I'm not being sarcastic. This question may be followed by a blank stare, or by raucous laughter followed by choruses of "He wants to see the ergonomics person!" ...or by an honest offer to get me a new chair or a glare screen, or by a puzzled look that says "What the hell is ergonomics, and why do you think we have it in our budget?" Anyway you go, it's a win.
posted by Shane at 8:01 PM on March 4, 2004

Shane -

1) CRT or LCD ? If you're staring at a CRT, buy a radiation filter. They're cheap and dramatically reduce eye strain.

2) Age related vision shifts - most people become more farsighted with age. I went to the optometrist a few months ago amd discovered that I am becoming less nearsighted. This is common. But - if you had good vision when you were younger, consider the possibility that this is not in your head at all but in your vision.

3) That said, listen to stbalbach, and - further - I've read of studies within the last year which tie being sedentary - i.e. staring at a computer screen for 8, ten, even 12 hours a day - to circulatory system diseases, blood clots, aneurysms and strokes. The cure? - At least 1/2 hour of cardio exercise per day, but better and hour or more. And good food. And less computer time. And.....

4) Your computer is a demon which is trying to suck up and enslave your very soul. Well, maybe not. But it's always good to contemplate a range of possibilities
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 PM on March 4, 2004

To go further on point #3, the heart is a muscle, and all muscles weaken and contract (grow inflexible) without exercise. You could be suffering from a reduced oxygen flow to your brain.

Also - proximate causes do not rule out other types of causation. Those tiny fonts of yours could have merely been the straw to the proverbial camel's back.
posted by troutfishing at 8:58 PM on March 4, 2004

Beware of addiction to over work! When I was in my 20's I became addicted to working long long hours. Sometimes (often) staying at work 30+ hours. Coffee (supplemented by caffeine tablets) + nicotine + cannabis PLUS missed sleep became my jones. I had no idea this was an addiction until I got over it. I didn't lack exercise much as I lived in NYC and did a lot of walking.
posted by Goofyy at 11:14 PM on March 4, 2004

I agree with the glasses thing. My mother works on compters all day and was having similar problems, and her eye doctor told her she needed 3 pairs of glasses: one for reading, one for long distances, and one for the computer. The reasoning was that the computer is sort of halfway between reading and long distance, so neither was truly appropriate. He could just be full of shit and trying to get more money out of her, but her problems went away so I tend to believe him. Also, even if your vision is perfect, glasses can help. I have 20/20 vision but use a pair of simple reading glasses for when I am studying for hours at a time.. they just help my eyes focus and reduce strain. If I don't use them then I get that weird feeling you described after a couple hours.
posted by gatorae at 11:37 PM on March 4, 2004

If you don't have an ergonomist at your worksite, here are some potentially helpful resources:
Ergo Tips - workstation ergonomic design and March is workplace eye safety month.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:33 AM on March 5, 2004

Also, eat your wheaties!

No - seriously, to follow up mjj's ergonomics point - lately, when at the computer, I've taken up alternating between sitting, standing, squatting, sitting on the floor on a foam cushion, lying down..... having a laptop makes this easier.

Also - along more extreme lines - I used to read at the gym while working out on an elliptical trainer. Some people find this impossible to do, but I found it quite enjoyable and my retention seemed to be at least as good as usual, perhaps better (for the greater oxygen flow to my brain). You could take up this habit - substituting a laptop. I doubt it's practical though. Still......
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 AM on March 5, 2004

And - this hadn't occured to me until this moment - what about blood sugar fluctuations? Your symptoms could be from a blood sugar low both related to diet and inactivity (and many of the other factors cited here). You could try cutting back on foods which elevate blood sugar.

Also - this is a trick which works to stave off sleepiness while driving - take periodic small sips from a bottle of seltzer water. I've no clue why this works, but it does.
posted by troutfishing at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2004

Oh - and one final thought - gingko biloba improves circulation. That might help.

Not to mention supernutrition and nootropic drugs.
posted by troutfishing at 9:06 AM on March 5, 2004


1. Exercise.

2. Doing nothing. Your brain is fried. You need to sit in a chair (or go for a walk) and just let your brain sort itself out. 10 minutes is great, an hour is better. (T.v., reading, etc. not allowed.)
posted by callmejay at 9:19 AM on March 5, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Wow. I'll take a little of everything above.

Also, I have a cubicle-attached-desk that is too low to use the keyboard tray. Normally I keep the keyboard on the desk and reach up. This week I tried actually using the tray...

It's amazing how traumatic a minor change can be in a routine of several years.

Maybe I'll break down, come in on a weekend, detach the desk, raise it... or get a new job.

Anyone know of any job openings in NE Ohio?
posted by Shane at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2004

It's almost becoming some kind of sick status symbol in the technology field.

Becoming? The whole long hours caffeine macho no sleep programmer bullshit thing has been around for years. Remember "90 Hours A Week And Loving It"? If anything, people seem to be getting *more* sane lately, since we no longer have the excuse of megabucks just over the horizon if we can only manage to ship this one upgrade.

Or maybe all my peers are just getting old.

Shane: I used to finish up my workdays with bleary, bleached-out vision, feeling a little dizzy and thoroughly spaced out. That ended pretty much the same day I switched to an LCD monitor. Maybe it'll work for you too.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:06 AM on March 5, 2004

Response by poster: Mars: That ended pretty much the same day I switched to an LCD monitor.

Trout: CRT or LCD ? If you're staring at a CRT, buy a radiation filter. They're cheap and dramatically reduce eye strain.

No chance of LCD here at work, but: Cool!

The 1600SW [LCD] operates on less than 20% of the power of typical 21-inch CRT monitors, in addition to offering three times the brightness and up to five times the contrast. This efficiency not only saves on power consumption costs, but also translates into significant cooling power savings.

"I've been staring at my computer for hours" is an often heard refrain, normally uttered in a zombie-like state.

posted by Shane at 11:35 AM on March 5, 2004

Response by poster: Ha! I work for a HUGE company, but I just asked the IT guy who happened to be floating here today, and he couldn't find me a glare screen.

He told me to try to scavenge one from the cubicle of anyone recently downsized.

I snuck all around vulture-like for a while but, unable to find one, I dragged out the one I used to use at my old workstation, which is missing a clip. I'll rig up the clipless side with a shoelace, a paperclip, and a a binder-clasp like I used to.

There's always duct-tape, if that doesn't work.

Just for giggles I asked for an LCD and the IT guy laughed out loud.

Good fun!
posted by Shane at 11:49 AM on March 5, 2004

Shane - I'd say that a CRT with a glare screen is close to an LCD in terms of eyestrain. Hey, maybe it's even better.
posted by troutfishing at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2004

Black Dog is an action, fictional, movie about this "fact".

A glare screen will simply hurt your eyesight, making your monitor darker.

Also, the only way to be "irradiated" by a monitor of any type is to glue your face to it. The *ONLY* item that ever emitted X Rays was a pooly manufactured television over 40 years ago. And then, it emitted the X Rays straight down below the TV. And the floor stopped them.

Sooo, unless you have a 40 year old TV as your monitor, and you like wearing 200 lb. TV equipment, you don't have a problem.

Now, a common CRT phenomenon is that due to the refresh rate, you tend to stare at it longer without blinking your eyes. Visene helps me when things get really bad.

However, it simply isn't traditional radiation that is the problem. Technically, light is radiation, but nobody calls it that.

Solution to this problem: Remember to blink.

BTW: I'm anecdotal evidence that a CRT will definately not screw up your eyesight. 4 - 8 hours a day since I was 5 and I still have 20/20 two decades later.

Here's some study info to back all this up.
posted by shepd at 8:37 PM on March 5, 2004

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