Most people will never admit to driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but chances are you’ve probably gotten behind the wheel when you were sleepy. Recent research, however, indicates that driving while tired is just as dangerous if not even more dangerous than driving while drunk. Yet, we still do it.
A recent National Sleep Foundation poll indicates that 60% of drivers have gotten behind the wheel when drowsy during the past year. More than a third indicate they have actually fallen asleep. Of those, four percent experienced accidents or near accidents. Lack of sleep has been implicated in many different things from weight gain to memory loss, so it’s not surprising that drivers lacking sleep are more likely to be involved in accidents.
Driving while sleepy is more apt to occur during holiday times and in the winter when there is less daylight. Overwork or work shifts that end in the middle of the night also contribute to fatigued driving. The monotony of long hours in the car during road trip also makes drivers sleepy.
When at all possible, motorists should avoid driving when sleepy. If you must drive and find that your eyes are getting heavy, take a power nap lasting from 15 to 30 minutes go give yourself a boost. For long treks on the highway, make sure that you get at least seven hours of sleep the previous night.
Sometimes, no matter how much sleep you get, you may still get sleepy when behind the wheel. If so, try these tips to keep yourself awake and safe.
Food and Drink
Caffeine make you more alert, so purchasing or making a caffeinated beverage for yourself before you hit the road is a preventative if you think you may become sleepy. Tea or soft drinks are other options if you do not consume coffee. Avoid energy drinks as these contain unhealthy amounts of caffeine. If you have a cold beverage, some people find that chewing on ice also keeps them awake. Consuming salty snacks is another option. Don’t eat heavy foods as these can contribute to sleepiness.
Pop in some of your favorite songs on your car’s player, but make sure the tempo is upbeat so you aren’t lulled to sleep. Turn it up loud and sing along. Alternatively, sing along with songs on the radio.
Lower Air Temperature
Keep the heater off in winter or run air conditioning longer in summer. Being slightly uncomfortable will keep you more aware of the road and your surroundings.