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How to Stay Awake and Alert While Driving

Updated on May 12, 2016

Safe Driving

There are lots of information available on how you can stay awake when driving long and even short distances. Here are simple steps you can take to stay awake while driving, including what to do when you get sleepy while driving.

What should you do when you get sleepy while driving? The best answer, of course is you can pull over and find somewhere safe to stop and take a nap. You could sleep in your vehicle or if your pockets are deep, maybe in a hotel on the way to your destination.

What should you do if you are unable to do the above? Suppose you are in an area where it is not safe to stop and park? What are your solutions to stay awake while you are on your way to these stops? How do you stay awake until you get there? You will find the answers to these questions and more here.

Truckers Need Sleep Too

How to stay awake while driving pertains to anyone who has felt drowsy while sleeping. 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 vehicles, you can park on a camp ground, designated areas on the highway or elsewhere. Long distance truckers probably have come up with their own methods to stay awake while driving. Some trucks are large, 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.

How to Stay Awake While Driving

Should you drink coffee to stay awake while driving? The question is how safe can you be driving while holding a cup of coffee? Unfortunately, too many accidents happen when drivers are distracted, so to sip coffee while driving is not only awkward to do, but could be dangerous as well. You may find it is safer to drink your coffee before you get on the road.

Don't Drink and Drive!

The obvious and unfortunately often ignored warning about driving is to not drink and drive. Many people may think they are able to drink and drive because they have safely made it home, probably in a daze -- but they made it home. In fact, many people make it home from maybe a night on the town and can't remember how they got there! By the way, it goes without saying to always wear your seatbelt when driving.

Do not risk your life by drinking and driving at any time. Do not drive even if you have a buzz. You may have seen or heard a commercial that states "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.

Prepare Before You Drive

If you have a long drive ahead of you, try to prepare yourself for the trip as much as you can. About a week or so before your trip, start going to bed earlier than usual. In other words "put 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 usual may be difficult at first, but there are lots of 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, drink warm milk and count sheep (counting sheep may be an old wives' tale, but it works!), or exert yourself a lot before bed-time. For example, exercising strenuously earlier in the day will cause your body to beg for sleep at the end of the day. 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 received. Try going to sleep earlier than usual, and see how refreshed you are when you awake. Being refreshed is particularly important if you want to avoid falling asleep at the wheel of your car.

Plan Your Driving Time

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 may drive late at night when you think most people would be sleeping instead of driving. This is a very big mistake! I drove during my "sleepy times" when all of a sudden I jerked myself awake and realized I had travelled quite a ways without realizing the car was practically driving and steering itself. Don't take chances on driving your car while sleeping!

Schedule your driving time when you are fully awake regardless of the traffic conditions, i.e. rush hour traffic. 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.

Your Body's Sleep Timer

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 pull into 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, or make you more sleepier than you already are. Jolt your brain awake, by getting off at the next exit to break up the monotony of driving.

Take the next exit, and drive through a small town, maybe stopping 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.

Safe Driving Question 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 tailights, especially if you are already sleepy at the wheel, 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 in front of you.

Safe Driving Question 2: Are there ways you can trick yourself to stay awake?

Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks you can perform to make yourself feel rejuvinated and wide awake when your body is begging for sleep while driving. However, there are some things you can do in addition to the advice already given to you to help you stay awake.

1. Pull off the road and find a safe place to rest in your car if you are unable to stay at a hotel. Caution here: A lot of 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. While at the rest stop, be sure to keep all your windows and doors locked! Whatever you do, remember to turn off your lights when you park. You don't want to get ready to restart your journey, only to find out you now have a car with a dead battery to contend with!

2. 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.

3. Let in some fresh air to help rejuvenate you awake by opening your driver's side windows. If you have power 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 to stay awake. When you've had enough air, you may close the windows, because sometimes the whistling of the wind can be unsettling, and uncomfortable if you keep your windows down for a long period of time.

4. Use your car's air conditioning to try to jolt you from your sleepy stage. 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. The abrupt force of the cold air on your face will stop you from being sleepy. Eventually, you may get too cold and uncomfortable, so, of course, you will have to adjust the air conditioning back down. The feel of the cold air and the act of adjusting the controls will help you stay awake. 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.

5. 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.

6. Have water in the car where you can easily and safely reach for while you are driving. Depending on how far you are driving, safely reaching for your water and taking a sip may rejuvenate you to drive alert. Again, drink water when it is safe to do so. Remember -- Your goal is to get to your destination safely.

7. You can listen to the radio, adjusting the sound upwards. Loud music has an awakening effect -- sometimes the louder the better. Just do not go overboard with the loudness where the music is an annoyance to other drivers.

You may choose to use Sirius radio where there are lots of choices in music and other offerings -- without the commercials. If you do not have a Sirius radio, there are lots of stations that play music with few commercial breaks.

Some people listen to audio books while they drive which is not recommended if you are sleepy while driving. Listening to audio books may lull you back to sleep -- instead of keeping you awake.

Safe Driving Motto: 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 driving after drinking.

You can change this statistic and only drive when you know for sure you can reach your destination without falling asleep at the wheel, or use the methods above to do so.


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    • ladyhowto4u profile image

      ladyhowto4u 5 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

      Will1015 5 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 image

      ladyhowto4u 6 years ago


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


    • Aceblogs profile image

      Aceblogs 6 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 image

      ladyhowto4u 6 years ago


      Thanks for your comments!


    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 6 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 image

      ladyhowto4u 6 years ago


      Thanks for your comments!


    • profile image

      Husky1970 6 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.