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How to Avoid Sleepiness while Driving

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Many of us think we can keep our minds alert, even when we're feeling the tug of sleepiness on our brain and bodies. But the truth is that sleep is a powerful biological drive—one that can overtake even the best driver. Rolling down the windows and turning up the radio volume—these tricks don't work. It's important to know what to look for and how to handle drowsiness to protect the safety of everyone on the road.

It's not always easy to tell when you're too tired to drive. Here are some signs that it's time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

Well before a person actually falls asleep while driving, lapses in attention and slowed reaction times make drowsy driving very dangerous. Driving is a complex activity that involves many small but important split decisions with every passing second. Even if you're awake, your brain is not functioning optimally to handle these decisions. Studies show that excessive sleepiness decreases our judgment and increases risk taking.

The best way to make sure your mind and body are in optimal driving shape is to plan ahead and get 7-8 hours of sleep before your drive. Other methods include:

  • The pre-drive nap: taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night's sleep.
  • The mid-drive nap: if you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you'll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
  • The Buddy system: It's safest to drive with a partner on long trips. Pull over every two hours and switch drivers, while the other takes a nap if possible.
  • Don't rush. Better to arrive at your destination safe than on time.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Even very small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.
  • Don't drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body's biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense.
  • Drink caffeine: caffeine improves alertness, although be aware that the effects of caffeine will wear off after several hours.
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Any more ideas ? I drive daily from SHJ to RAK and need some good ideas to avoid crashing 

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Good topic and i think it covers most tips. In my former life being a DJ i was always on the road in the early morning hours. The first 20 minutes when i took off was ok, but then fatigue starts to kick in, especially in the winter when your car heater is on. I'd take the nearest available exit, and take a small 30min powernap, followed by a walk around the car and a coffee. That always did the trick.

Be aware that after very long periods without sleep, you will enter a stage where you are suddenly not tired anymore, and feel perfectly fine to drive. But at one point you'll fall asleep without realizing in a split second. A friend of mine who was a sales guy and did very long drives once told me the story that his car went off the highway and he woke up with the car upside down on a piece of farmland next to the highway. Luckily he survived and just broke his arm, but he kept telling me NEVER felt it coming as he kept ignoring the earlier signs from the hours before and then entered the state of being awake and not tired at all. 

Same thing with RedBull and others.... it delays your fatigueness, but it will hit back eventually, and then it will hit you hard..

 

Edited by Frederic
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I was driving from RAK to SHJ with my office colleague and suddenly hit divider at Ajman, My senses got shut off so quickly and automatically that i never felt it coming it was so quick that i didn't realize that slept over steering and ht the divider.    

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WOW, What a brilliant topic shared with well research facts and remedies.

Here are my two cents from driving after every week night offroad drive. Off course nothing beats a power nap if you are super tired but these few little tricks help me every time.

  • Spray water on your face. Keep Evian spray can or normal water spray gun for plants handy. 
  • Chewing gum, mint, candy or soda, just something sweet or sour to kick up.
  • Eating nuts, crisp, chocolate to prevent yawning and sleep.
  • Calling and speaking to someone on phone, of course on hand free mode.
  • High tempo music (dance numbers) to keep your body esp head and neck moving.

 

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I think I am one of the best qualified to answer this question as I have a big tendency to sleep while driving. This is what I do in the following order of preference: 

  • Nothing beats getting a power nap of 20 - 30 mins
  • Talking on the phone is the next best thing
  • Eating sunflower seeds as its an activity in addition to eating something

Eating chips, chocolates, chewing gum have no effect to keep me awake

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2 minutes ago, Srikumar said:

I think I am one of the best qualified to answer this question as I have a big tendency to sleep while driving.

And for some other GLORIFIED experience.......!

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This is the best. 

17 minutes ago, Srikumar said:
  • Nothing beats getting a power nap of 20 - 30 mins

What works for me is to drink lots of cold water ONLY.

I have tried many things like energy drinks or caffeine but they messed me up. Maybe because I never drink coffee or things like that, the only caffeine I drink is from the occasional soft drink.

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Sleeping on the wheel is bloody dangerous and can get people killed. Number 1 rule. Sleep well and be well rested. Number 2 if unavoidable. Pull over and take a nap before you get yourself or someother motorists killed.

Thank God I dont suffer for this even when being behind the wheel contiously for 12-18 hrs. 

Only time I was really struggling was after being at the wheel almost for 24hrs non stop luckily it was 3 am in the morning and I was very close to home, told my colleauge to take over even though he didnt have a license but I knew he could drive well on and off road and take the car back to base as it was needed in the morning.

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