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Driving sleepy or drowsy can lead to accidents, injury, or even death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 633 deaths related to drowsy driving in 2020. That’s a lot of fatalities that could have been easily prevented. If you’re planning a long road trip or plan to drive at night, check out these five tips to help you avoid driving sleepy.

1. Get adequate sleep the night before

A young man asleep on a sofa.
A young man asleep on a sofa. | Philip Sowels/Future via Getty Images

We all know that getting adequate sleep is important any day of the week, but it’s especially important if you plan to go for a long drive the next day. Experts say that you should get a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep to ensure that you’re well-rested and alert while driving.

2. Avoid drinking alcohol before driving

A young man in sleepy in his car.
A young man in sleepy in his car. | Yavuz Arslan/ullstein bild via Getty Images

This one is a no-brainer considering driving while intoxicated is illegal in every state. However, if you’re trying to ensure that you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel, it’s important not to drink alcohol beforehand.

3. Check the labels on your prescription medications

Prescription bottle.
Prescription bottle. | Tom Kelley/Getty Images

If you take prescription medications every day or are starting a new one, make sure to read the labels. Your medications could make you drowsy, which could lead to an accident or worse. The NHTSA recommends that if you use prescription medications that can make you drowsy, then take public transportation instead.

4. Avoid driving late at night

Cars driving at night
Cars driving at night. | Damian Gillie/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

If you can help it, avoid driving late at night. Between midnight and 7 a.m., we are naturally sleepy, so try to drive before or after. If anything, driving during the daytime is better regardless due to better visibility.

5. Avoid drinking too much caffeine

Monster energy drink
Monster energy drink | Getty Images

Do you like to load up on energy drinks before a long trip? If so, then you experience adverse effects from them while driving. Studies show that drinking too much caffeine can make you sleepy. There are also many side effects from drinking too much caffeine, which can impair your driving. These side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Shaky hands
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness

All of these symptoms could impair your ability to drive and even cause you to get pulled over. Remember to limit your caffeine intake before driving.

Signs that you need to pull over

If you’re wondering how to know when you’re driving while sleepy, here are some signs that you should pull over:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Feelings of dozing off
  • Tired eyes
  • Drifting into other lanes
  • Inability to remember the last few miles
  • Missing a road sign or exit
  • Following other cars too closely
  • Difficulty maintaining a proper speed

If you feel that you need to pull over, do it. You can take a power nap at a rest stop or gas station if needed. Or if you need more sufficient sleep, then renting a hotel or motel room for the night could be helpful.

Studies have shown that driving sleepy can be almost as bad as driving drunk. Don’t become a statistic, and remember to get some sleep.