When traveling with your kids, it is always better to start early in the day. This way, you can cover some distance as they sleep or before they become fidgety and agitated. Do be conscious though, that early starts mean you will need to ensure that you have had a good eye shut.
The designated driver for your journey will need the energy and alertness required before a long drive – easier said than done if you have young children!
When you have driven for a few hours, the signs that will show you that you are too tired might include the following:
- Frequent daydreaming
- Frequent blinking and heavy eyelids
- Difficulty in remembering the last few miles you have driven
- Missing traffic lines, drifting into other lanes, tailgating
What Can Cause Drowsiness While Driving?
Drowsy driving means you operate a motor vehicle when you cannot remain alert due to lack of sleep. It can also be referred to as fatigued, deprived, or tired driving.
Drowsy driving leads to slow, decreased reaction time and judgment of stimuli. And in some cases, the driver might fall asleep behind the wheel.
While anyone can experience the effects of inadequate sleep, some of us are more predisposed to drowsy driving. Some of these people include:
- People with sleep disorders that cause sleep loss or sleep-disordered breathing
- Commercial drivers who operate large vehicles like tow trucks, trailers, and semi-trucks
- Shift workers who work for long hours or work at night
- People who are under medications that cause drowsiness
- Parents of young children
Other Causes Of Drowsy Driving Might Include
Driving long distances alone
Driving long distances along vast boring stretches of the road might cause drowsy driving. If possible, go with a partner. This way, you can switch drivers every two hours and sleep while your partner drives.
Lack of adequate sleep
The recommended hours for the adult human body to sleep is around seven to nine hours daily. You are at significant risk of drowsy driving if you do not receive the recommended seven hours of sleep.
Teens’ recommended hours of sleep is between eight to ten hours. If you have one at home who drives, insist on adequate sleep while letting them know the dangers of getting behind the wheel while drowsy or tired.
The presence of untreated or unrecognized sleep disorders
Sleep disorders that might be unrecognized might include obstructive sleep apnea. This is also referred to as narcolepsy, a nervous system disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. Depression and habitual snoring might also cause daytime drowsiness.
Driving at times when you would typically be sleeping
You should avoid driving late afternoon or between 12 am and 6 am. This is because your body and brain are regulated by your biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm influences how alert or drowsy you are at certain times of the day.
You might be more apt to fall asleep while driving and slouching in your seat. A good sitting posture will give you more control over your vehicle and improve your hand- coordination. Cushioning your car seat is a factor you can not overlook
Drinking and driving
This goes without saying; Alcohol reduces your driving ability and worsens tiredness. It is unlawful to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Not taking breaks
Take your time. Better late than never. If you are feeling tired, stop. Take as many breaks as you need. Stop in a safe and well-populated place to walk around and stretch.
Tips For Staying Alert While Driving
You might believe that you can stop yourself from falling asleep when you are driving drowsy, but the truth is that you can not. You may not even recognize that you have dozed off.
If you’re wondering how to stay awake while driving, try the tips below that will prevent you from dozing off in the first place or help you if you are aware enough to react.
1. Drive in the morning
You should drive after a good night’s sleep. This is because, by mid-afternoon, your body might feel tired. And by sunset, your internal clocks will signal your brain to rest.
Driving early, especially if you have kids, will prevent you from feeling drowsy. This is one of the best ways to stay awake while driving.
If you are on the road and you are feeling sleepy, you should pull over and have a 15-minute power nap. A power nap is the most effective way to refresh your brain and make you feel more alert. Look for a safe place and pull over when driving long distances.
3. Change your radio station
When traveling alone, your car radio can be your best friend. It is better if it is satellite radio. It will help keep your brain entertained and alert. And if a station becomes boring, change it and blast off your best tunes, then dance along but remember to keep your eyes on the road; this will help to stay awake.
4. Chew gum
Nothing beats some jaw-smacking and bubble-blowing like good gum. Chewing gum will help keep your eyeballs at attention. You can take the chewing gum a notch higher by having a variety of flavors to keep your taste buds entertained as you keep yourself awake.
After you have driven for hours in the same posture, your body will enter into a zombie-like state similar to sleep. Therefore, while driving, you should do shoulder rolls and neck stretches every 10 to 15 minutes to loosen your muscles and help you stay alert while driving.
6. Take frequent stops
If you are on a pleasant road trip with your kids, you should seek out points of interest and viewpoints. It is true that most of the most remarkable finds and sites while traveling have been at unplanned stops. Keep an eye out for cool little towns to explore with your little ones.
7. Eat a healthy meal before starting.
Yes, you should not have junk food while you are traveling. Instead, make healthy choices that include protein and complex carbohydrates. While sugar, salt, and fat might taste good, they will not provide the stamina you need to stay awake while driving long distances.
8. Eat your vegetables
Instead of packing crackers, pack a large bag of fresh veggies to snack on. Go for choices that will not get mushy in the mix. These might include: snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, radishes, and more. Crunch your healthy way down the highway – we have more healthy road trip snack suggestions over here.
9. Drink a cup of coffee
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant making it the most popular method to stay awake while driving. The effect might not last the day, and you should be careful not to overdo it. This is because coffee can act as a diuretic leaving you dehydrated.
Try using less sugar in your coffee so you do not crash once it wears off. Coffee is one of the best drinks to stay awake with.
10. Be preventive before your journey
By being preventive before you get behind the wheel, you should do a 20-minute workout before leaving the house. Doing exercises increases your blood flow to the brain and also lowers your level of stress hormones. This will help you to stay awake, thus being more alert while driving.
11. Take a friend on your road trip
Having a buddy to talk to and sing with as you drive will make the hours pass far easier. Driving with a pal is one of the ways how to stay awake on long drives.
12. Stop and do some laps
After driving for some hours and fatigue starts to kick in, you should pull over in a safe location and walk around your vehicle. Breathe in the fresh air. This will help your blood to flow to your legs.
Drink lots of water while you are driving. Dehydration can cause fatigue. Bring an easy-access bottle that you can use without removing its lid or cap. One that you can squeeze is ideal.
Things That Will Not Work To Keep Drowsiness Off
If you are already drowsy, some techniques will not help make you more alert. Mainly because they happen after the sleepiness has already set in. Some of the tips that might not work include:
- Eating sugary foods while driving
If you stock your car with candies and crackers during travels, the carbs or sugars will likely cause you to have a sugar or carb crash. Once the carbs metabolize, the sugar spike in your bloodstream will wear off, causing drowsiness to increase even more.
- Slapping and pinching yourself
If you resolve to slap or pinch yourself, you will only be causing physical pain and will do very little to awaken the part of your brain that needs to be stimulated back into being alert.
More to Prepare For Your Family Road Trip
We hope you’ve found some winning tips here to help you with your next long driving vacation, where early mornings and long stretches behind the wheel may be required.
You may also want to read next:
- Essential maintenance checks and preparing your vehicle for long journeys
- Preparing for your very first road trip with a newborn
- Dealing with children’s motion sickness on a road trip
- How to handle driving in winter conditions
© Family Road Trip