We have all been there: the road starts to look the same and we are lulled into a sense of sleepiness where it feels like if we can only close our eyes for a few minutes we will be so much better. Unfortunately, we have to keep going for we settle for a few seconds of closing our eyes. That doesn’t work. That isn’t safe. While getting to your destination is important, you have to think about how you’d like to get there. Driving while you are too tired or driving while sleepy is dangerous, but sometimes you just have to do it.
So how can you stay away when it seems like everything that surrounds driving at night is made to put you to sleep? Here are a few tips:
Plan Ahead: Make sure you get enough sleep the night before you are going to drive. Get at least seven hours, if not eight or nine. Make sure it is restful sleep as well and not just cat naps while you do everything else. If that is impossible, take a short nap before you drive so that you can feel refreshed. Try to sync it up with your biological clock so that you feel the most rested. Aim for a 20, 40, or 90 minute nap for the best results.
Split it Up: If you are going on a longer trip, ask a friend to go with you. That way you can pull over every few hours and switch. The other person can take a nap and be refreshed when it is time to pick it back up again. If you don’t have a friend who can help you, consider taking with someone who will just talk to you and keep you awake. If you have no one who can make it with you, consider splitting the ride up yourself. If you feel like you are too drowsy, pull over in a safe location and recline your chair. Take a short nap or 20 or 40 minutes. When you wake up, walk around outside of your car for 15 minutes or so to wake yourself back up. You will be a little groggy, but once you shake that you should be fine.
Don’t Rush: Rushing makes everything feel that much more stressful and it impacts your body in a negative way. Instead, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Go at the speed limit and remember that getting there safe beats getting there with a few tickets behind your name.
Be Careful About What You Drink: Do not drink alcohol before you are going to drive. While it is typically dangerous to do this, it is even more dangerous if you are already tired. Alcohol can make you sleepier than you were. Avoid drinking something like Red Bull or 5 Hour Energy as well, as the crash can make you worse. You can drink caffeine to improve your alertness, but be aware that you will probably have to grab more before too long because it will wear off.
Listen to Loud Music: Loud music will help to keep you awake and alert. Since it is dark out, there is no time like the present to sing your heart out and put on a show while you drive. Make sure the music isn’t something that will lull you to sleep – it has to be loud.
Don’t Drive If You’re Too Tired: If you are too tired, pull over or get a hotel room. It isn’t worth it to get to your destination. This is especially true between the hours of midnight and 6 AM. It is very difficult to fight against your body.
If you are feeling too tired, you need to pull over. Here are some other signs that it isn’t safe for you to be driving anymore:
• You can’t keep your head up or it feels extremely heavy when you move it;
• You have to rub your eyes to keep them from feeling too heavy;
• You are daydreaming or having disconnected thoughts that aren’t focused on the task at hand;
• You have to blink often to keep yourself awake;
• You can’t focus on the road;
• You don’t remember the last few miles you have driven;
• You keep missing exits or traffic signs;
• You are restless and have a case of road rage.
Make sure to pay attention to your body and listen to it. Driving is complex and while it might seem like second nature when you are awake, you are actually making split second decisions that can impact your safety and the safety of everyone around you. Especially if you are driving at night, you have to be prepared for anything.