You Snooze, You Lose: Tips To Stay Awake While Driving

You won’t fall asleep while you’re driving, even if you’re tired—right? Well, not so fast. You may be surprised to learn that nearly 103 million people admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel. 

The truth is, when you’re driving drowsy, it can be seriously difficult to keep yourself awake. On top of that, you may doze off and not even know it. However, this is more likely to happen if you are sleep-deprived, driving long distances without rest breaks, traveling at night, driving alone, riding long rural highways, taking medicine that causes sleepiness or drinking alcohol.

So, whether you’re driving cross-country, or just heading home from work, these tips well keep you alert and focused while you’re behind the wheel.

How to stay alert

Try these tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • If possible, don’t drive long distances alone. If you have a companion on your drive, you’ll have someone to talk with. Plus you can take turns driving.
  • Get enough shut-eye. You’re more likely to nod off at the wheel if you have slept for less than 8 hours the night before.
  • Don’t begin a trip so late that you’re driving when you usually sleep. Start when you’re fresh and alert.
  • Watch your posture. Hold your head up and don’t slouch as this can actually decrease energy and increase stress.
  • Take a break at least every 2 hours. Stop in a place that is safe and well-populated to walk around and stretch.
  • Have 2 cups of a caffeinated drink like coffee, if you can have caffeine.
  • Enjoy munching on a healthy snack. Not only will the calories give you energy, but it will give you something to do.
Signs of sleepiness

You may be about to doze off if you:

  • Can’t remember the last few miles you drove.
  • Experience wandering or disconnected thoughts.
  • Have difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open.
  • Have trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drift from your lane or hit a rumble strip.
  • Yawn repeatedly.
In these cases, it’s very important to pull over to a safe place. Turn off your car, lock your doors, and nap for 15 minutes to 20 minutes in a busy, well-lit rest area or truck stop. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to reach your destination safely.

Whether you have questions about safe driving, or any number of health-related topics, you can utilize the extensive resources available through GMC’s Health(e)Library. With current health news, nutrition & wellness information and healthy living tips for the whole family, you’ll stay up-to-date on all things health.

For more customized health information, the primary care providers of Gwinnett Medical Group are ready to become your partners in good health. From preventative care, to diagnosis and treatment, the experienced primary care team is always prepared to help.

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