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How to Stay Awake During Road Trips

Updated on August 1, 2016

Staying awake on a road trip can prove to be one of the most difficult tasks to undertake. Falling asleep at the wheel is extremely dangerous. It not only puts you and your family at risk, but also the lives of innocent passersby or fellow travelers on the road. It is not only falling asleep at the wheel that is dangerous, it is also sleepy drivers that are dangerous. Some experts even compare sleepy drivers to drunk drivers. In both situations, reaction time is much slower than normal. Here are some great tips to stay awake and keep yourself from getting sleepy on a road trip.

Taking a break is advisable and sensible
Taking a break is advisable and sensible
Taking a break in the White Mountains
Taking a break in the White Mountains
Pit stop somewhere in Vermont
Pit stop somewhere in Vermont

Take Breaks on a Road Trip

There is nothing better to wake up your body than a break from the road. Note that there may be instances that your mind may seem awake and alert, but as your body tires your reflexes and reaction times are going to be badly affected. A tired body is not going to react as quickly as your mind would like it to react. Getting sleepy or drowsy is the worst that could happen, as your focus and attention is going to be severely hampered.

Therefore, it is recommended that every two hours on a road trip you should get out of the car and stretch your legs. This keeps the oxygen and blood flowing throughout your body and tends to wake up your senses. A snack is also recommended during these breaks. When you eat food, your digestive processes are activated and your body starts working to break down the food you are consuming. The more work your body has to do, the more you will awaken. Just remember that these are just stop-gap measures. You have to be conscious at all times about your level of awareness and energy levels. Always assess this on the conservative side. If you have passengers, it isn’t only your life that is at stake here.

Of course, if nothing is helping you stay awake and alert on your road trip, a break is a great time to catch a nap. A quick nap can do wonders for your driving. It is always better to lose a couple of hours napping than to risk your life in a car accident.

Temperature on Road Trips

If you are beginning a long road trip, remember to maintain the coldest temperature possible inside the car. Bodies are more comfortable in warm climates. When your body is comfortable, it is more apt to fall asleep. Don't let your body get comfortable in a warm car. Keep yourself chilly on a road trip.

Road Trip Washcloth

One of the best ways to wake up your body and your senses on a road trip is to shock your face with a cold wash. Keep a wet washcloth in a cooler. When you feel yourself getting sleepy or dozing off in the car, get out the washcloth. You would be surprised what a little cold water on the face can do for drowsiness!


This is another way to sustain you during long road trips. Coffee, soda or any caffeinated drinks that suits you and works best to keep you awake and alert will be helpful. My husband prefers soda to coffee, and preferably with a snack to munch on for good measure. However, this may not be that healthy in the long term.

An added bonus to this is for those with weak bladders as this will force you to make frequent stops to relieve yourself and in a way get a needed break off the road.

Buddy System

Taking turns driving is a good and safe way to conduct road trips, especially long ones. My husband and I love going on road trips and we take turns behind the wheel. However, after switching, try to get some sleep right away while the relieving driver is still fresh and alert. This way by the time he starts getting tired and drowsy, you are rested and awake already and can keep him occupied and determine if a switch is necessary.

You want to avoid staying awake and keeping your partner company and then sleeping after a few hours. Your partner might hesitate to wake you up and ask to switch if you just started to take a nap. It is also difficult for a driver who is getting sleepy to stay awake if everyone else in the car is asleep. Never underestimate how contagious sleep can be. The objective is to keep having fresh and alert drivers behind the wheel at all times.

Safety First

There is nothing more dangerous behind the wheel than a sleepy driver. Don't let this happen to you. Make sure you are completely prepared for sleepiness on a road trip. The more you can do to avoid and prevent road trip drowsiness, the better.

Cool music for driving: Theme from Local Hero: Dire Straits


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    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Sorry for the late response Wayseeker, but thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. My husband and I had many opportunities to put those techniques to the test during our posting to the United States. We love taking long road trips and took several of them while in the U.S. and you could say this hub was based on those experiences.

    • wayseeker profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado


      Perusing your hubs, this one caught my eye as I recently took a road trip and had some trouble with this, though thankfully not a lot! Some of the ideas were things I knew, but I'd never thought of keeping a cold wet cloth handy to keep you focused--what a great idea!

      This had some wonderful ideas in it, and it was written with a very clear sense of organization and clean, direct prose. Some good writing happening here.

      Voted up and useful!


    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      It looks like the washcloth has attracted quite a bit of attention. Thanks for dropping by to comment Parrster. Good thing your brother came out okay other than the fine and community service.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Helpful hub, I'll try that cold washcloth suggestion, clever idea.

      Driver fatigue is a particular problem in Australia, due to the size of the country and the corresponding length of many trips, as well as the high temperatures.

      My brother fell asleep at the wheel on a deserted road once. Deserted, but for one other car; a police officer on his way home. My brothers car did a complete 360 before landing in a ditch. He survived unhurt, but was fined and had to do 6 months community service.

    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks Charlu and Brett. Dozing off on a motorbike, now that is scary. Good thing you didn't get into an accident.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      8 years ago from Asia

      Very good advice for safety. Driving while tired is risky. My scariest moment was dozing off on a motorbike ... was definitely time for a break and double strength coffee! Lucky I was still able to take that break.

    • Charlu profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      Great hub with some excellent tips for staying awake and alert. Thank you for sharing and helping others to stay safe.

    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I'm glad you all found this useful. Staying safe on the road on long trips is so important. The probability of getting involved in a road accident is quite high and we must do what we can to minimize it.

    • cydro profile image

      Blake Atkinson 

      8 years ago from Kentucky

      I have so much trouble with this! I'm the worst about sleeping and driving. It scares my close relatives every time I'm driving them more than 45 minutes. I've never heard of the washcloth technique. I'll have to check that out!

    • profile image 

      8 years ago from Houston, TX

      I hope more people find this Hub because it touches on an important topic. I may try having a cold washcloth around the next time I need to make a long drive.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Some good advice on a topic of importance. Drowsiness behind the wheel is very dangerous. I have experienced this problem myself. Your tips will be helpful. Thanks!


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