How to Stay Awake While Driving

Pull over and rest when you’re getting tired – that’s what the truck stops are for! Let’s face it; long hauls are boring after about the first 10 or 20 miles! Your tires make that humming sound against the road, which doesn’t exactly add to whatever music you are playing. Most of the scenery on long hauls is the same, especially if you’ve driven the haul before – you’ve seen all there is to see. These two potentially deadly combinations, the “white noise” of the tires and nothing visually exciting to keep your attention, contribute to road fatigue.

“No problem,” you think. “I’ll pull over and grab something to help me stay awake!” And, sure enough, when you walk into your favorite truck stop there are all kinds of energy and sugary products promising they provide the best way to stay awake while driving. But time and testing have shown that these quick fixes not only pose a health risk, but also make you even more tired than you were before once the effects wear off.

So, what do you do? You’ve got a long-haul assignment – nice! – And you know you’re going to get tired. Some experienced truckers have some tried-and-true methods to stay alert while traveling thousands of miles for hours on end. These tips to stay awake while driving have helped truckers. Keep it safe, because aside from the bad weather, driving when you’re sleepy is just about the next best way to cause an accident.

    • Cat-nap before getting on the road. Studies have shown that even if you sleep for less than an hour, your body receives crucial rest it needs to help you stay awake into the night. Pull over and take 20-minute power-naps while en route when you need them as well. Don’t try and fight your fatigue to save time; you might end up hurting others and yourself.
    • Eat a healthy meal after your pre-route nap. I know, I know! Grabbing that fast food when hitting the road is convenient, but the fat, salt and sugar makes you tired. Energy food consists of complex carbohydrates and protein, which will give you long-lasting stamina. Eat whole grains – 100 percent ones, not the “contains whole grains” things – lean meats, fruits, veggies … the good stuff! These foods will help keep you awake on your route.
    • Take vitamins. Just make sure to take them with your healthy meal, or your body won’t absorb them and you won’t realize their full benefits.
    • Move when you get tired. Pull over, get out of your cab and stretch your legs. You’re sitting for extended periods of time and you need to move around to keep your blood flowing; this keeps your energy up.
    • Crank up the volume of your music if necessary. Music affects your mood which, in turn, affects your fatigue level. If you’re feeling a little sleepy or even down, listen to some lively music that you can sing along with.
    • Keep snacking even though you ate a meal your mom would be proud of before you hit the road. Make sure your snacks are healthy, though.
    • Listen to an audiobook – just don’t make it War and Peace! Keeping your mind occupied will help you stay awake. Maybe you like to pump your adrenaline with a scary novel, or suspense is your gig. Whatever you’re into, once you get tired of singing, pop in an audiobook and listen to someone else’s voice for a while.
    • Do annoying things to yourself. Like, rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue, pinch your earlobes or your arm or leg, smack or tickle yourself, whatever it takes to chase away the sleepiness. Don’t hurt yourself, of course. Just do something that will irritate you out of your sleepy state.
    • Open your windows and let the oxygen flow! This works particularly well if it’s toasty warm in your cab and cold outside. Like diving into cold water, cold air gives your system a temporary jolt, shocking your sense into alertness.
    • Keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeine. If you drink tons of water you’ll have to stop every 10 seconds to pee – I get that. However, you can’t let yourself dehydrate, either. Dehydration is an immediate fatigue-causer, and don’t load up on coffee. Not only will the caffeine in coffee wear off, but caffeine is also a diuretic, which will make you pee more than the water you should be drinking and increase your dehydration.