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How to Stay Awake and Alert While Driving

Updated on August 17, 2019
Be aware of body signals that you are sleepy, such as yawning while driving.
Be aware of body signals that you are sleepy, such as yawning while driving.

How to Stay Awake While Driving

There are plenty of information available on how you can stay awake when driving long and even short distances. Let's start with what you should do when you get sleepy while driving. The best solution, of course is to pull over and park in a safe place to take a nap. You could also stay in a hotel to sleep and get a good night's rest before continuing your trip.

However, the pressing questions are these: What should you do if you are unable to to park or find a hotel nearby? Suppose you are in an area where it is not safe to park? How do you stay awake while you are on your way to these stops? Should you drink coffee to stay awake while driving? How safe can you drive while holding a cup of coffee? Speaking of coffee -- Unfortunately, many accidents happen when drivers are distracted, so sipping coffee while driving is not only awkward, but is dangerous as well. You may find it is safer to drink your coffee before you start your drive.

Tips for Truckers to Stay Awake While Driving

Staying awake while driving pertains to anyone who has felt drowsy while driving including truckers. Even if you drive a large camper, or recreational type vehicle, you need to know how to keep from falling asleep while driving.

If you drive these types of vehicles, you can park on a camp ground, designated parking areas or elsewhere where parking is authorized. Long distance truckers probably have their own methods to stay awake while driving. Some trucks are extraordinary large, almost like houses on wheels with just about everything in it needed for comfort -- including a bed. All you have to do is find a truck stop, or a big vacant parking space and sleep in your truck just as if you were at home. Make sure you are parked at a trucker's stop or in a safe place before you prepare for sleep.

Do not Drive While Drunk, Under the Influence or Sleepy

You may get sleepy while driving if you get behind the wheel after drinking -- against your better judgment. The obvious and unfortunately often ignored warning not to drink and drive is often not adhered to. Many people may think they can drink and drive because they made it home once or twice before, probably in a daze -- but they made it home safely. In fact, many people arrive home from a night on the town and cannot remember how they got there.

Do not risk your life and others by drinking and driving at any time. Do not drive even if you have a slight buzz. You may have seen or heard commercials that state "Buzzed driving is drunk driving." Not only will you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel, but there are other dire consequences as well, including black-outs, accidents and even worse.

Have you ever fought to stay awake while driving?

Have you ever felt sleepy while driving?

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Prepare Before Your Drive Just in Case You Get Sleepy

If you have a long drive ahead of you, prepare yourself for the trip as much as possible. About a week or so before your trip, go to bed earlier than usual. In other words "deposit your sleep in your sleep savings bank." You should go to bed earlier than you normally do, even if it is as little as an hour or so before your usual bedtime.

Going to sleep earlier than normal may be difficult at first, but there are many ways you can train your body to sleep soundly. I'm not referring to sleeping aids, or pills. There are natural ways to get to sleep without using sleep aids.

For example, you can read a book that puts you to sleep, listen to soft music, drink warm milk and count sheep (counting sheep may be an old wives' tale, but it works!), or exert yourself a lot before bedtime. For example, if you exercise strenuously earlier in the day, your body will beg for sleep at day's end. Plus exercise is good for you.

Interesting enough, some research studies claim it is not possible to save up your sleep. Do not let these studies sway you. Many times researchers try to go against the grain to get attention or to justify the grant money they may have received. Try going to sleep earlier than usual, and see how refreshed you are when you wake up. Being refreshed is particularly important if you want to avoid falling asleep at the wheel of your vehicle.

Have you ever done this? In order to avoid lots of traffic including traffic jams, accidents and traffic congestion, you may have driven when you knew less cars would be on the road. You probably chose to drive late at night when you thought most people would be sleeping instead of driving. Warning: This could be a mistake. If you did not get ample sleep, when you drive during your "sleepy times" all of a sudden you jerk yourself awake and realize you have travelled quite a ways without noticing the car was practically driving and steering itself. Don't take chances on driving your car while feeling sleepy!

Schedule your driving time when you are fully awake regardless of the traffic conditions, i.e. rush hour traffic, traffic congestion, etc. Remember to bank some sleep and go to bed earlier than usual. Schedule your driving, if possible, during those times when you are usually awake -- not when you are normally asleep. Just doing this simple scheduling of sleep will go a long ways towards keeping you awake at the wheel.

There are exceptions. If you find you must drive during the times when you are normally asleep, go to bed extra early so your body can get the sleep it needs so you can stay awake and alert.

You may have followed all the above suggestions and advice, but still your body's sleep timer seems to have a mind of its own. As you are driving, you feel your eyelids become heavy, and you want so much to close them, just for a minute -- only a minute. My advice to you is Don't!

If you are unable to park in a safe area to sleep, here is what you can do which may help. If you are on a long drive, just take the next exit that you see ahead and get off the straight roadway. Driving on a long stretch of highway can be hypnotizing and can also induce sleep. Jolt your brain awake, by getting off at the next exit to break up the monotony of driving.

When you take the next exit, drive through a small town or maybe stop to get gas or snacks. These actions help break up the sameness of the long drive. Even if you do not need gas, still take the next exit so your brain will have to become alert and focus on your new driving direction. Once you return to the open highway, you should feel more refreshed and less sleepy.

Stay awake while driving and remember to always wear your seat belt.
Stay awake while driving and remember to always wear your seat belt.

Safe Driving Question No. 1

If there is a car in front of you, should you focus on the tail lights in order to stay awake?

The response to this question is a definite "No." Starring at the tail lights, especially if you are already sleepy, will only intensify your body's strong urge to sleep. The tail lights in front of you may have a hypnotic effect and cause your eye lids to become heavy. Of course, once in a while glance at the tail lights in front of you while following at a safe distance (do not tailgate!), but do not stare unwavering at the tail lights.

Safe Driving Question No. 2

Are there ways you can trick yourself to stay awake?

Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks you can perform to make yourself feel rejuvenated and wide awake when your body is begging for sleep while driving.

Ways to Stay Awake While Driving

  • Pull off the road and find a safe place to rest in your vehicle if you are unable to stay at a hotel. Caution: Many designated rest stops are not safe. Trust your instincts or do some research on safe rest stops before your drive, just in case you have to use the rest room or stop for some other reason. While at the rest stop, be sure to keep all your windows and doors locked! Also remember to turn off your lights when you park. You don't want to get ready to restart your journey after your nap, only to find out you now have a vehicle with a dead battery to contend with.
  • While driving, readjust and focus your eyes on the car's dash board, and then immediately look at some far away object in front of you. If cars are in front of you, of course, be sure to keep a safe distance. The refocusing and movement of your eyes may temporarily make you feel more alert.
  • Let in some fresh air to help jolt you awake by lowering your driver's side windows. Lower the passenger side windows as well. Do this if you are driving alone or with passengers. The feel of the strong force of air against your face as your car is moving will sometimes help you stay awake. When you've had enough air blowing on your face, you may close the windows. Avoid keeping your windows down for long periods while driving because sometimes the whistling of the wind can be unsettling, and distracting.
  • Use your car's air conditioning to keep from becoming sleepy. How do you do this? Simply, adjust your air conditioning to the coldest air or temperature, position the car's louvers so they are turned towards your face, then turn the fan up high. Be careful to alternate between keeping your eyes on the road as you take these actions. The abrupt force of the cold air on your face will help stop you from being sleepy. Eventually, you may get too cold and uncomfortable, so, of course, you will have to adjust the air conditioning to a more comfortable level. The feel of the cold air and the act of adjusting the controls will help you stay awake. I repeat: Be sure to keep your eyes on the road as you do this or park in a safe spot first.
  • If adjusting the flow of air from the air conditioner is too distracting, then pull over, find a parking space and adjust your air conditioning when you are not driving. Also remember to find a safe place to park to rest, nap, or even sleep before you continue on your trip.
  • If you are driving with someone who has a valid driver's license, why not take turns driving? When you start to feel less awake, you can stop somewhere safe and have your passenger take over the driving while you sleep. Depending on how long the drive is, of course, you can do him or her the same favor and take over the driving again once you feel rested enough to do so.
  • Place water in the car where you can easily and safely reach. Depending on how far you are driving, reaching for your water and taking a sip may rejuvenate you. Again, drink water when it is safe to do so. Remember -- Your goal is to get to your destination safely.
  • You can listen to the radio, adjusting the sound upwards if you like. Loud music has an awakening effect -- sometimes the louder the better. Just do not go overboard with the loudness where the music becomes an annoyance to other drivers. You may choose to use Sirius radio where there are lots of choices in music and other audio offerings -- without the commercials. If you do not have access to Sirius radio, there are plenty of stations that play music with few commercial breaks.
  • Refrain from listening to audio books while driving while drowsy. If you are sleepy while driving, listening to audio books may lull you to sleep -- instead of keeping you awake.

When you feel sleepy, it's time to stop driving.
When you feel sleepy, it's time to stop driving.

It is Your Responsibility to Drive Safe!

Of the information shared with you regarding safe driving, the best advice is to simply stop driving when you feel sleepy, and get the sleep and rest your body needs. Remember, just as you should not under any circumstances, drink and drive,you should also not drive when you are sleep deprived.

There seems to be more people driving while they are in desperate need of sleep, which is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. You can change this statistic by following the tips above to stay awake and alert and to arrive at your destination safely.

Best advice for driving if drowsy.

What action do you take if you become sleepy while driving?

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    • ladyhowto4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Courtlney Davis 

      8 years ago


      I agree! Drinking a lot of water, coffee, tea or soda will certainly help to stay alert! Thanks for your comments!



    • Will1015 profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn

      A problem we all encounter at least once in our lives - most of us much more than that. Thanks for sharing. One strategy I use, is to drink a lot. Whether it's water, coffee, tea or soda. The sensation of needing to use the bathroom is usually enough to keep me alert.

    • ladyhowto4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Courtlney Davis 

      8 years ago


      Thanks for your comments! I'm happy that you found my hub useful!


    • Aceblogs profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Nice tips shares by you again , i sometimes feel drowsy when i am driving late nites. This hub is very useful for me

    • ladyhowto4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Courtlney Davis 

      8 years ago


      Thanks for your comments!


    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      These tips are nice. I have one more tip just published a new hub on that one. "Anti sleep pilot". Check it out on my page here:

    • ladyhowto4u profile imageAUTHOR

      Courtlney Davis 

      9 years ago


      Thanks for your comments!


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      These are great tips for helping with a very serious problem. Getting off at an exit and getting out of the car is terrific advice. Good for avoiding blood clots as well. This is a very useful hub ladyhowto4u and you have helped many people who struggle with this problem. Thanks.


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