How to Stay Awake While You Drive

Drowsy Driving causes 72,000 accidents per year

Drooping eyelids, frequent yawns, wondering where the last few miles went are all signs that you’ve gotten drowsy behind the wheel. You may be tempted to push on. After all, you’re not that far from home. But, driving while drowsy results in 72,000 car accidents every year and over 800 deaths. Injuries from car accidents can cause brain, back, and neck injuries that may affect the victim for the rest of his or her life.

When you’re fatigued, sleep deprived, and struggling to stay awake, you have to take quick action, like pulling over or changing drivers, to protect you and your family.

Do You Drive Sleepy?

Strange as it may sound, some people don’t realize they’re too tired to drive. When you know the what to look for, you’re better prepared to take action. A few signs to watch for include:

  • yawning
  • heavy blinking
  • driving past your exit on the interstate
  • drifting out of your lane
  • forgetting the last few miles driven

Most people have experienced these symptoms at one time or another, but you may not have been aware of the serious toll sleep deprivation takes on the brain and body. Sleep deprivation causes:

  • slowed reaction times, including judgement and vision
  • short term memory loss
  • lowered motivation
  • mood changes, including aggressive tendencies
  • difficulty processing information

Alert Driving Starts at Home

Change starts by taking sleep seriously. Adults should sleep seven to eight hours every night, but insomnia, shift work, and stress can interrupt your ability to get the rest you need. There are actionable steps you can take to help yourself get the rest you need and stay safe on the road.

Eat for Sleep Success

What and when you eat impacts your ability to sleep at night. Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided at least four hours before bedtime to make sure they won’t keep you up or disturb the sleep cycle. Try to eat a light, early dinner to prevent discomfort when you lay down. If hunger pains start rumbling, a healthy snack with protein and complex carbohydrates works great to tide you over until morning.

Consistent Bedtime

Reasonable bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, helps set your body’s circadian rhythms.  A consistent bedtime trains your brain when to release hormones needed to make you sleepy.

Develop a Routine

To support a consistent bedtime, you might need to develop a bedtime routine. The routine can include anything that helps calm your mind and body. A warm bath, hot cup of herbal tea (no caffeine), or reading a book (a real book, not an e-reader or anything with a bright light) are a few simple activities to get the ideas rolling. When done consistently, a bedtime routine enhances your brain’s ability to trigger the sleep cycle.

The Right Environment

Your bedroom should be solely devoted to sleep. When it’s time for bed, turn the temperature down to anywhere from 60-68 degrees. Your body temperature drops while sleeping and a lowered room temperature supports your natural sleep cycle. Keep the room as quiet as possible, and make sure you have a supportive mattress that doesn’t leave you waking with any aches and pains.