If there's one mistake we all can't afford to make while behind the wheel, it's got to be falling asleep. There are three common factors that affect our sleepiness: one is obviously the lack of sleep, binging on too much carbohydrates, and fatigue. When both are experienced on the road, it is called drowsy driving.
Drowsy is different from drunk and hungover driving, but it's as alarming as the two aforementioned. In fact, a study carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety in 2013 estimates that it is the leading cause of 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in US. Studies also showed that the people who would most likely commit drowsy driving are those with only six or fewer hours of sleep.
The unpleasant reality of drowsy driving
Driving while feeling sleepy is a serious problem, knowing that one's irresponsibility may lead to the death of the innocents. Earlier this year, a road tragedy in Cebu was reported by the Inquirer. The unfortunate incident claimed seven lives in total, and the driver who survived the crash admitted to have fallen asleep. The result? Five people died on the spot, two didn't make it to the hospital, and three were badly injured.
An obvious way you can do to stay awake on the road is completing a seven to eight-hour sleep the night before. However, depending on rare instances and health conditions, some people still feel extra drowsy even after having enough rest. Here are some additional ways you can counter drowsiness, and doze off behind the wheel.
Don't eat too much/too little before driving.
In most occasions, a full stomach will make you feel sleepy. This could be due to sleep-inducing compounds of some food we eat. Fatty foods are more likely to make you feel drowsy as your body needs to fight in able to digest it, resulting to a feeling of tiredness. Instead, you want to eat light and nutritious. Meals like veggies and Omega oil-rich food are your best friends if you want to eat before you drive.
Not eating or eating less, on the other hand, will make your body weak, so as your reflexes won’t be as good as normal. You probably want to eat the right amount of food before you head out.
NEVER drive with a hangover.
According to a Ford study in 2017, driving with a hangover is as fatal as driving drunk. The deal with hangovers is that it will make you feel dizzy and drowsy at the same time. This is not a good combo if you are the designated driver. Also, having a hangover weakens your reflexes – so if you're going on a night out for some drinks, make sure you plan ahead your means of transport, and better leave the car at home.
Drive with a chatty companion.
Ever heard of karilyebo, a.k.a. reliever in English? Yes, you need that other person with a driver’s license to relieve you of the driving during long trips. But, they aren’t the most ideal companion to have while you’re driving because most of the time they would also want to rest or catch up on sleep.
Your best bet? A non-stop-talker friend who will tell you endless stories, even to the point of sharing every minute of how the whole week was spent. This friend will keep you awake, trust us.
Tune in to your favorite FM radio station.
Aside from the wonderful playlists that features the top billboard hits, you can also opt to tune in to FM radio stations where DJs strive to be as interactive as they can be. They will keep your mind running and alert in a way that you won't lose focus on the road and keep you awake especially when they start throwing questions that make you think, too.
But, beware when the DJ starts playing slow and calming music! This is a signal for you to change the station, and find one that plays upbeat tracks.
Caffeine helps – ask your barista for an extra shot.
If coffee has been your BFF when you’re in desperate need to stay awake, then drop by your favorite coffee shop to get yourself a cup of joe before you start your long drive. For more effective result, don’t hesitate to ask your barista for a stronger brew, or an extra shot. Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee if you want to keep your eyes open.
If you are not in a hurry, spending some time at the cafe would favor you enough time to rest your eyes. A five to 20-minute rest stop is enough for you to get a quick nap, eat, and stretch your limbs. In addition, it’s also the best time for you to empty your bladder, so you could have a distraction-free driving when you get back on the road.
Don’t blast your air condition system or else...
Colder temperature causes your body to perform what scientists call Temperature Homeostasis – the process wherein the body sets a 36-degree Celsius to 38-degree Celsius thermostat. This usually happens in colder countries during the winter, but it could happen to you when you let you A/C on full blast.
If it gets too cold and the body temperature starts to drop below 35 degrees Celsius, you will more likely experience a mild hypothermia. You'll start feeling very sleepy, and may mildly lose senses so remember to keep your A/C on the right level.
Easy with the glucose.
While it's true that sugar energizes you, taking extensive amount of it poses a threat. Sugar crashes, and when it does, you’ll start feeling nauseous, tired, and sleepy. Normally, this happens to children; an aftermath to what we call sugar rush, which makes them extra hyperactive. Sugar crash is common to people with diabetes and is also observed with non-diabetic subjects. So, go easy on the sweets.
If you want to take in sugar, make sure you do just the right dose. For some people, chewing a gum or eating a candy is helpful to keep them awake. You may try this and see what suits you, though we suggest that you go with munchies that have little or no sugar in them – nuts are a great substitute.