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How to Stay Awake While Driving

You don’t change lanes in bed, so you shouldn’t sleep while you’re driving. Here’s how to stay alert.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Pull over & drink coffee At the first sign of drowsiness, pull over immediately and drink a cup of coffee.
  • Step 2: Wait for caffeine to kick in Don’t get right back on the road; caffeine boosts a driver’s reaction times, but it takes 30 minutes to kick in. Instead, park someplace safe, lock your doors, and take a quick half-hour nap.
  • Step 3: Roll down windows When you do get going again, roll down your windows. If it’s cold outside, all the better -- it’s harder to nod off when you’re uncomfortable. And don’t crank the heat --the warm air can lull you to sleep.
  • TIP: Stay three car lengths behind the car ahead of you; this will give you some room for error if you do happen to doze off for a second.
  • Step 4: Sit up straight & move eyes While you drive, sit up straight and keep your eyes moving. Hunching forward decreases the amount of oxygen that can fit in the lungs, and staring at a fixed distance slows down brain activity.
  • Step 5: Chew gum Choose spearmint or peppermint gum -- its minty scent stimulates the vagus nerve, providing a jolt to the nervous system.
  • Step 6: Play games with yourself Play road games -- with yourself! I Spy, which forces you to notice your surroundings, and the License Plate Game, which makes you focus on small letters and numbers, boost mental functioning and reduce eye fatigue.
  • Step 7: Sing along Sing along to your favorite CDs. It switches up your breathing patterns, boosts circulation, floods oxygen to the brain, and -- if you like the song -- increases feel-good endorphins.
  • TIP: If you’re not a fan of your own voice, listen to audio books instead. A study found they make drivers more alert than just listening to music.
  • Step 8: Walk Around If all else fails, find a safe spot to get out of the car and walk around. Moving your body revs up circulation and brain activity, which shakes off fatigue. Who knows? You may already be where you’re going.
  • FACT: Thirty-seven percent of drivers admit falling asleep at least once behind the wheel.

You Will Need

  • Cup of coffee
  • Some chewing gum
  • Audio book (optional) (optional)

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