Hitting the open road. Exploring little known destinations. Days of driving endless roads. My eyelids droop at the thought of having to stay awake driving.
I can sleep anywhere. On long haul flights I am the annoying passenger that snoozes happily through babies screaming, food carts banging into my elbow and snoring seat mates.
As I perkily bounce off the plane on the other side of the world, fellow sleepless passengers, who look as though they may have traveled to Mars, send exhausted glares my way.
However the tables turn on me mercilessly during a road trip. To stay awake driving is a personal marathon event. Ten minutes in a moving vehicle and my eyelids feel as though elephants are delicately perching on them.
By one hour behind the wheel, clothes-pinning my droopy eye flappers to my eyebrows seems the best way to avoid sleeping while driving.
So how does one stay awake while driving? We reached out to readers, road trippers and long haul truckers for their best tips on staying awake driving on a road trip.
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20 Ways to Stay Awake Driving- Tried and Tested Tips From Drivers
Please note that driving requires concentration. All tips for staying awake while driving should not take away from focusing on the road. Studies show that drowsiness substantially decreases reaction time, judgement skills and increases risk taking. Always pull over in a safe location if you are feeling drowsy.
Change the station
The radio can be your best friend on a road trip. Having a satellite radio has kept my eyes open for hours on end while behind the wheel. Everything from politics to comedy (not so different some days), old time radio shows to news.
Suspense to keep the blood flowing or comedy to have you laughing down the road. Whatever engages you in a story let a storyteller keep your attention. I love Bill Bryson’s hilarious travel stories. His Australian tale, In A Sunburned Country, almost required me to pull over I laughed so hard.
Drive in the morning
If at all possible drive after a good night’s sleep. Come mid afternoon my nap mode is in full gear. By sunset internal clocks are signaling the brain to sleep. Early day starts help prevent driving while sleepy.
Nothing like some jaw smacking, bubble blowing to keep your eyeballs at attention. Try various brands and flavors for variety to keep your taste buds guessing.
If you are driving and are feeling sleepy pull over and have a 15 minute power nap. According to Sleep Advisor a power nap is the most effective way to refresh your brain and make you feel more alert. I will admit on a solo road trip letting myself get to the point where an irrational voice in my head suggested I just close my heavy eyes for one second. Tell that voice to shut up and pull over.
Download the music from your youth
Over and over we heard from drivers that tunes from their youth kept them most wakeful. Upbeat, bouncy and turn up the volume as needed.
Sing like you mean it
The car may be one of the only safe locations for me to burst into song. The windshield cracks only slightly as I belt out ABBA’s greatest hits. Oh Mama Mia what a noise. Who could possibly sleep?
Hour after hour in the same position the body enters a zombie like state similar to sleep. While in the car try shoulder rolls and neck stretches every 10-15 minutes.
If on a pleasure road trip seek out points of interest and view points. Some of our most amazing finds while traveling have been at unplanned stops. Watch for cool little towns to explore.
Eat a healthy meal before starting out
What no junk food? Make healthy choices that include protein and complex carbohydrates. Sugar, fat and salt may taste good at the time but won’t provide the long lasting stamina you need to stay awake while driving long distances.
Preferably not in the vehicle. Stopped at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere? Get the blood flowing and warm up your pitching arm while tossing pebbles.
Eat your veggies
Pack a large bag of fresh vegetables to snack on. Carrots, celery, snap peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes are choices that won’t get mushy in the mix. Crunch your healthy way down the highway.
Water that is. Dehydration can cause fatigue. Bring an easy access bottle. Buy a sport bottle that can be squeezed without removing lids or caps.
Get some fresh air
Open the windows and breathe deeply. Hopefully your driving is in a pollution free area. Cold air works well to pop the droopy eyeballs open and help to stay awake driving. If you detest the noise of open windows turn down the temperature in your vehicle.
Coffee or Tea
A jolt of caffeine may be the most popular method of how to stay awake driving. The effect will not last the day and be careful not to overdo it. Coffee can act as a diuretic leaving you dehydrated. Too much caffeine and a vibrating, heart palpating driver is at the wheel.
Look for the perfect photo
No matter how boring a landscape may appear at first glance, a pretty picture is waiting to be discovered. Watch for a splash of color, a pond of water in the sunlight, clouds at sunrise or sunset or a once in a lifetime scene if you are really fortunate.
Seeds and nuts
Eaten one at a time, these healthy nibbles can occupy a great deal of time. Sunflower seeds have been a staple on our road trips for decades. Be warned the car may look like a squirrel has broken into your vehicle accompanied by the extended family from a nearby forest.
Do some laps
Pull over in a safe location and walk around your vehicle. Breathe in the fresh air. Get the blood flowing to your legs.
Take a pal on your road trip
A buddy to talk to and sing with (here’s hoping your friends are not tone deaf like myself), will make the hours pass far easier.
The last resort
Chocolate, jelly beans, candies, licorice… you get the high sugar picture. Save it for desperate situations. Too much of this and you will find yourself feeling like a slug on the steering wheel with a stomach ache.
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Do you have any tips on how to fight sleepiness and stay alert when driving?