Do you have trouble staying awake behind the wheel? Many believe that it is possible to escape the power of sleep when drowsy driving. But in the real sense, you may not even realize that you’ve dozed off. And so, if you begin yawning, having disconnected thoughts, drifting from your lane, and experiencing difficulties keeping your eyelids open, beware!
Before we look into the tips of staying awake while driving, let’s first understand the dangers and signs of drowsy driving.
Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is a combination of fatigue and sleepiness while driving. It can occur when the driver is drunk with alcohol, is under medications, or suffering from untreated sleep disorders. Drowsy driving causes similar impairments as drunk driving. It reduces the bodily functions needed for safe driving, including heart rate, blood pressure, and depth perception.
Drowsy driving is likely to happen if you’re driving alone, driving at night, driving long distances, sleep-deprived, drinking alcohol, taking medicines. In worst-case scenarios, drowsiness can hinder your eyesight’s accuracy and ability to adjust to the darkness. The danger of this is that you’re likely to cause accidents while on the road.
Therefore, if you often feel drowsy while driving, it’s time you visited your doctor for a diagnosis.
Signs of Drowsiness
The telltale signs that you are drowsy and should stop driving include yawning uncontrollably, heavier eyelids, tilting your head, and wondering thoughts. You will also note that you cannot remember the miles you have driven, and you suddenly start drifting into other lanes. If your fellow driver honks at you for erratic driving, you better pull out your vehicle and know the best way to sat awake on the road.
Following are the top 10 tips to help you stay awake while driving.
Top 10 Tips of How to Stay Awake While Driving
Watch Your Posture
If you are the type who loves slouching in your car seat while driving, it’s time to stop. This poor posture makes you apt to fall asleep. That is why it’s advisable to hold your head up without slouching. A good posture gives you ultimate control over your vehicle while improving eye-hand coordination.
Slide your coccyx closer to the seat and aim for only a 2-3 finger gap between your knees’ back and the seat’s front. If the vehicle does not offer sufficient room for proper body positioning, use a gel seat cushion to achieve the same.
Adjust the “seat pan” to support your thighs along the entire length. Keep your hips slightly above your knees to increase bool circulation on your lower back.
Get the correct height by raising your eye level some 3” above the steering wheel. Set the headrest’s top between the top of your head and ears, but ensure it does not touch the back of your head. Finally, adjust your side mirrors and rear-view to prevent neck strain. Such a sitting posture will prevent drowsy driving.
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Don’t Drink and Drive
Drinking alcohol just before driving is against traffic rules. Alcohol worsens tiredness and reduces your ability to focus on the road. By doing so, you are posing safety risks to yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. Besides alcohol, you are not allowed to consume any other intoxicating drink before hitting the road.
Avoid Taking Sleep Medications Before Driving
You should avoid drugs like opioid pain relievers, antidepressants, anxiety prescription drugs, analgesics, antiepileptic drugs, psychoactive drugs, and some antidepressants. Most of these drugs induce sleepiness and may cause drowsiness.
If you must take the medications, consider public transportation instead of driving your car. And if you’re unsure about the effects of your pills, be sure to contact your pharmacist or doctor. That also applies to patients with conditions like sleep disorder or chronic fatigue.
Driving for long distances can be strenuous and tiresome, causing the body to feel lazy and tired. Doctors confirm that there exists a significant bidirectional relationship between regular exercise and sleep quality. Regular exercises (20 minutes of exercise per day) improve the chances of a good night’s sleep, which translates to remaining awake behind the wheel.
But besides that, you’ll need to be intentional in achieving proper ergonomics while sitting in your car. For instance, you can try out seat pushes, tricep pushes, rear-enders, calf raises, bumper push-ups, and lunges. You could also make adjustments to your posture every 30 minutes of driving. Stop the car in a safe place and stretch or walk around. These simple techniques will eliminate drowsiness and help you remain awake.
Develop a Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Excellent sleep hygiene keeps you well-rested and helps you to remain alert all day long. It includes practices and habits that will help facilitate quality night’s sleep each night. You should try adapting consistent bedtimes where you have a specified time to sleep and wake up. Optimize your space by sleeping in a dark and quiet room with a temperature setting of around 15.6° – 19.4° Celsius.
Get rid of electronic gadgets like computers, cell phones, and tablets that can emit blue light and interfere with your sleep. For an added precaution, you should avoid using these devices 30 minutes to bedtime to help your mind rest quickly. All in all, be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any recurring patterns of sleep disorders. Such habits could cause insufficient sleep, leading to sleep deprivation.
Time Your Driving Hours
Drowsiness-related accidents often occur between 12 am – 6 am or in the late afternoons. The human body may find it difficult to remain vigilant during late nights and early mornings while you are on the road. But if you must drive during such hours, be extra careful in your driving.
Watch for drowsy signs like yawning and hitting rumble strips. And if you notice that other drivers have the same behaviors, drive away from them. Avoid starting your road trips late but consider starting them when you are alert and fresh.
Carry your Buddy Along
When going on long road trips, you can drive along with your buddy. This way, you can easily switch the driving responsibilities and allow time for a power nap. And when you notice that your buddy is getting drowsy, take over the steering wheel. Sometimes, all you need is a quick power nap to remove fatigue and restore your energy.
This strategy should be common among long-haul drivers, especially those driving massive tractor-trailers. Continuous driving for 12+ hours is a day is dangerous and against road safety rules. The advantage of having another driver in the car is that they’ll always notice when you’re about to doz off when driving. A single driver may not have anyone to keep them alert.
Put on some Music
Playing music during the long haul will help you to stay alert and focused. Play the tunes you can sing along, whether it is funk or folk, classical or country, metal, or mákina. Since music has a positive effect on mental alertness, you can listen to energetic tunes that will pump you all day long.
However, listening to loud music while driving is dangerous and not allowed. It increases the chances of irresponsible driving and being involved in accidents. Loud music could also be distractive, and that’s why it is against road safety rules. Also, using headsets, headphones, or other listening devices is not permitted while driving. You can only use a hearing aid if your hearing is impaired.
Some Caffeine will Help
Caffeine remains to rank among the world’s most popular stimulants and is believed to lower your risk of crashing on long road drives. According to medical studies, only one coffee cup is enough to reduce the effects of sleep deprivation. Having two cups of a caffeinated beverage like coffee before facing the road trip will prevent your chances of drowsy driving. You’ll be amazed how the drink will get you through the day successfully.
However, you’ll need to remember that some caffeinated beverages only offer temporary energy boost and when their effects are worn off, you’ll feel exhausted and tired. But two coffee cups coupled with a brief nap is recommended to help you stay awake while driving. However, if you have allergy issues with caffeine, your doctor will recommend the most suitable beverages to take to avoid drowsy driving.
Take Some Breaks
Taking a break is another best way to stay awake while driving. Pull your vehicle in a safe and well-populated area and take a 15 minutes break. 2 hours should be the max driving period you can take before driving. The frequent breaks will help you stretch your legs, change your sitting position, and walk around.
The rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t drive for more than eight hours a day. However, if this is unavoidable, the 15-minutes breaks will help you stay awake and avoid driving with fatigue.
If you’re still wondering how to stay awake while driving, this simple tip will do the trick! Scientists believe that vasopressin is the hormone that regulates hydration and gives the link between sleep and hydration. That means not drinking sufficient water makes the body feel tired and drowsy. Before hitting the road, be sure to carry a bottle full of clean and fresh water. And when the drowsiness comes, hydrate your body and see how important this will be in keeping you awake.
Take a 20 Minute Nap
If you can’t beat the sleep, join it! Stop the road trip and pull over your vehicle somewhere safe. Take a quick 20-minute nap, and you’ll be amazed how you will soon you’ll feel refreshed. The 20 minutes act like an energy boost, enough to keep your alertness level high.
Regulate the Temperature
Getting too cozy in the driver’s seat will put you into a deep sleep. Warm temperature settings will make you feel sleepy and drowsy. Therefore, when feeling fatigued, you can keep the temperature lower in your vehicle.
Proper Sun Shades
Squinting causes eye fatigue which leads to drowsiness and sometimes sleepiness. You can avoid this by getting the proper sun shades for your drive. This accessory will give crystal-clear visibility and help in preventing squinting.
You can also stay awake by chewing gum. Though this is not a highly recommended method, it helps to prevent you from yawning. Get sugar-free gum which is healthy to chew even while driving.
Use Driver assistance systems
Some vehicles have driver assistance systems that will sound an alarm on noticing unnatural steering wheel movements. Some assistant systems like the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can also help in combating tiredness. If you receive the alarm and are struggling with drowsiness, you can take a quick break.
What will not work
When drowsy, some drivers will try multiple techniques to stay awake. Unfortunately, not all these practices will help to reduce the effects of sleep. The tips that will never work include:
- Talking on the phone – Making phone calls will not take the sleep away. It is against traffic safety rules and could distract you as you drive.
- Eating snacks -Munching some candy and crackers to stay awake is a bad idea. The much you can get from these snacks is carb or sugar crash.
- Rolling down your windows – rolling the windows will allow fresh air in the vehicle but will not always take away the sleep.
- Pinching ad Slapping yourself – attempting this is a waste of time as it only causes physical pain but does not awaken the brain cells that need stimulation to be awake.
If you’ve ever been in a long haul, you understand how tedious it can be trying to concentrate on the road. But as we’ve seen, drowsy driving is dangerous and could result in fatal accidents. We hope that all these mentioned tips will help you stay awake behind the wheel and safely reach your destination.