6 Tips to Help you Stay Awake while Driving
If you’re under 30 or a trucker, you’re more likely to be drowsy and driving. And if you’re sleepy and driving, you’re really really dangerous. To yourself and others. A study of truckers found that they averaged less than 5 hours sleep – not a big surprise then that drowsiness is likely responsible for more than half of all trucker fatalities. And for every trucker who died driving, he or she killed another 3-4 in the same accident. A study showed that even a one-hour loss of sleep from daylight savings time can be dangerous.
According to a National Sleep foundation white paper on drowsy driving, your body needs at least 7-8 hours. So if you just sleep for 8 hours the night before a road trip, are you ok? Alas, no. Your body builds up sleep debt, and one good night of sleep is not always enough to fix that. Do yourself and those traveling with you a favor and get at least 7 hours of sleep a few nights in a row.
If you can’t do that, take a micro-nap at the first sign of drowsiness. Even 15-20 minutes can make a big difference, especially if you precede the nap by…
2) Eating and drinking the right foods
Before your trip, eat a light meal with foods having a low glycemic index. Heavy meals and meals with high glycemic indexes exacerbate sleepiness. So, are Italian and Chinese food off the list? Not by a long shot. Cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano and Asiago contain the amino acid tyramine and are known to help keep you up. Fermented soy products actually have some of the highest amount of tyramine —soy sauce, tofu, miso, and even teriyaki sauce are great sources.
If you’re already on the road, step up to the caffeine machine. You probably don’t need a long analysis of caffeine or a recommendation from AAA to know that it’s a useful tool to stay alert once you’re on the road. But steer clear of caffeine sources with lots of sugar such as regular colas and energy drinks. While the sugar rush can help you for a little while, the danger from the ensuing sugar crash can counteract the benefit from caffeine.
Chewing gum is also something that can help. Chewing gum has been proven to increase alertness. The double plus good version of chewing gum to keep you awake would be a caffeinated chewing gum such as Jolt Energy Gum. It tastes like regular gum, but two pieces have the boost of a coffee.
3) Slip into something a little… less comfortable
Warm, comfortable rooms or cars don’t make you tired, but they can make you sleepy if you’re already in sleep debt. And according to the National Sleep Foundation, most of us already are. In their 2009 study on sleep, they found the average adult got only 6.7 hours of sleep on a work night.
One way to counteract sleep inducing effects of sleep debt is to remove enhancers… such as warmth and comfort. First, we need to ask why if you know you’re getting sleepy, you haven’t pulled over for a short nap. But assuming you have your reasons, go ahead, roll down the windows. Turn on the air conditioner. And make yourself genuinely uncomfortable. Sit on a pen. Put your foot in a weird position. Whatever it takes to get… uncomfortable.
4) Get your Tech on
Auto manufacturers know how dangerous drowsy driving can be. Some car makers have been taking this to hear with some very cool new tech to help you stay alive.
Assuming you’ve got a little spare change, there are a bunch of new phone apps that purport to keep you on this side of R.E.M. Apps like Drivia, Anti-Sleep Pilot, and Anti-Drowse are designed to help keep you from napping while more mechanical devices such as NoNap theoretically do the same thng.
If you’ve got a lot of spare change, check out the new Mercedes. It’s new “Attention Assist” system covers 70 variables while it assesses your wakefulness.
5) Occupy your brain
Monotony and a boring straight drive are the hobgoblins of drowsiness. Basically, a long, straight highway is practically hypnotizing you to sleep. Hopefully, you’ve got a co-pilot in the car and the two of you can keep each other awake with car games that force you to use your brain a bit.
If there’s no one in the car, use a lifeline and “phone a friend.” Just make sure you use a hands-free. Distracted driving statistics show that phone calls dramatically increase accidents too!
If you don’t have a co-pilot and there’s no one you can call, you can always try a really good audio book. Find the most engrossing author and actor you can. A monotonous voice over can ruin a great story!
6) Sing out loud. Sing out Strong.
You’re in the car. It’s late. You’re tired. Sing. Just TRY to fall asleep while singing. It’s near impossible. You’ll need to plan this one in advance so you can make a playlist of road-trip sing-a-long karaoke songs. Tuning your XM/Sirius to a station you like is definitely an option, but inevitably some of the songs you’ll hear aren’t good sing a long songs. Bring your own.
Up next… our favorite play list of great sing-a-long driving songs.