How to Stay Awake While Driving

Driving long distances, late at night, or in unusual weather conditions can cause even the most confident drivers to lose focus and get drowsy. Today’s vehicles incorporate a lot of technology that assists drivers to stay alert but simply starting a trip well-rested can prevent a lot of problems. There are many other methods can help you stay awake while driving too. 

A road sign on the Bruce Highway south of Mackay warns drowsy drivers to play trivia to stay awake on long stretches of road. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Each year 72,000 car accidents are the result of drowsy drivers. You don’t even have to feel fatigued to be at risk. Just one or two hours of missed sleep increases the chance of a crash significantly. 

How to Stay Awake While Driving

There are many steps you can take to improve your focus and to help you stay alert. Try implementing a few of these during your next road trip or long drive. 

Good Morning Sunshine! 

There is a reason some people are happier in the morning. In addition to being well-rested from the hours before, people are naturally more alert during daytime hours. Being able to see different scenery as you drive along keeps your mind engaged, reducing the chance of highway hypnosis. 

Grab another coffee for the road

Most of us won’t need an excuse to grab an extra cup of coffee, but it is especially helpful for staying awake on the road. There is actual scientific proof of this. When you drink a caffeinated beverage, adenosine receptors in the brain are blocked. This fights the sleepiness you could otherwise experience. The stimulant increases metabolism triggering your liver to release glucose, keeping your mind awake. 

Since caffeine is a diuretic, you’ll also increase your stops for bathroom breaks. This will give you a chance to break up the drive and stretch as well.

Pack a snack

Trail mix, chips, protein bars, or crunchy vegetables are great to take along for car trips. Snacks like these offer immediate energy without making you tired. It will give your mind something to focus on and doesn’t require too much attention from the road ahead.

Seat position and posture 

Seat position and good posture will automatically make you feel more awake. These two things maximize blood flow throughout the body.  

Turn the air conditioning on high or crack the window for more airflow

If the temperatures around you are too cozy, you are creating an atmosphere that makes it easy to nod off. If you are a little uncomfortable, it will be harder to fall asleep.

Listen to Baby Shark 

Like a small rock in your shoe, listening to music you dislike can be enough of an irritation to keep you focused on the road instead. Music you enjoy will likely be relaxing and put you at ease. This trick is sort of an audio thumbtack that prevents you from getting too comfortable to doze off. Our best recommendation: Try a Baby Shark playlist. 

Listen to a podcast or call a friend

Engaging conversation or even an exciting podcast will help you concentrate even more than music. It’s also a great way to fill the time and stay alert. 

Give yourself a break 

The best solution to staying awake when you find yourself tired and losing focus is to stop and take a break. Getting off the road, taking a break and getting some rest if needed is always the best possible scenario. 

One of the most responsible things you can do as a driver is to focus on your surroundings and remain awake at the wheel. It is crucial not to drive angry, tired, or rushed because that could lead to you or someone else getting severely injured or worse. Being aware of what you can do to avoid this and sharing these tips with others keeps us all safer on the road.