Tips to Stay Awake While Behind The Wheel
When it comes to the professional trucking industry being on the road for long periods with an ever-changing schedule can cause sleepiness when driving. We’ve prepared some of our best recommendations to help fight fatigue while on the road to help you arrive at your next destination safely.
Sleep-Deprived when driving a big rig is a major concern for the safety of the driver and other motorists on the roadways. Let’s begin with some of the best tips to stay awake while being behind the wheel while driving long distances.
Remember, if you are unable to stay awake while on the road pull over immediately when it is safe to do so to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Sleeping behind the wheel in an 18-wheeler can pose an extreme risk of you or other motorists on the roadways becoming injured.
• Firstly, staying on a consistent sleeping schedule that allows you to rest 8 hours of sleep per night can greatly help you avoid being tired behind the wheel. Plan on going to bed at the same time every night so you can get enough shut-eye to be able to drive for long hours the next morning.
• While being on the road it is extremely tempting to stock up on junk food as it is often quick and in most cases even cheaper at pit stops. Instead, look for alternative options such as meal prepping, preparing healthy snacks, and avoiding extremely sugary or high-in-caffeine foods.
Although high sugar or high caffeine food and drink may make you feel extremely wired it comes at the cost of only being for a short period and often comes with a fatigue crash. This is why we recommend drinks to be caffeine free in most cases to avoid a crash in energy.
• Avoid starting a trip during the hours that you often sleep to avoid your body fighting you to go to sleep. Although this may be difficult at times being in the professional trucking industry do your best to avoid getting behind the wheel if you feel at all tired.
• Stretch often and sit with good posture to get into an extremely comfortable position that may cause you to want to sleep or rest. Good posture helps keep you alert while behind the wheel and helps to provide good focus.
• Opening the window and getting fresh air can often be the extra boost you need to become awake while on the road. Occasionally roll down the windows to help you stay awake and keep you moving down the road. This technique works especially well when the air outside is colder as the cold air can help you become awake quicker.
• Consider bringing caffeinated drinks such as coffee, energy drinks, or other caffeine alternatives to keep you safe and awake while on the road. An energy boost from caffeine is one of the most efficient ways to remove drowsy driving and play a part in improving traffic safety.
One of the downsides of this technique is using is it often comes with an energy crash after several hours and often the more caffeine you take the larger the crash. A cup of coffee in the morning or the afternoon during your drive to your next destination can greatly reduce sleepiness.
• Sometimes having a conversation with someone can greatly help keep you awake while behind the wheel. Call a friend, family member, or even other drivers and have a conversation. It’ll help you stay focused and prevent you from getting comfortable and potentially falling asleep behind the wheel.
• Consider pulling over and taking a quick nap before heading to your next destination. A 30-minute nap alone can make a major difference in sleepiness and boost morale to get to your next destination safely.
• Stay healthy by working out and eating healthy as often as possible while being on the road.
• Chewing gum can keep you focused on chewing rather than sleeping and is a great addition to go with some of these other tips in this blog. Ideally finding some sugar-free gum is ideal for helping to stay up and preventing a sugar crash. Alternatively, chewing on a snack such as Chex-mix, dried fruit, peanut butter, trail mix, or alternative healthy snacks can greatly help.
• Find a music playlist or podcast that you enjoy listening to help keep you distracted against being tempted to fall asleep.
• Consider pulling over and getting out to stretch your legs at rest stops during long drives to circulate blood flow and allow for better posture to help keep you wide awake.
Signs of Sleepiness and Fatigue Behind the Wheel
• Having a hard time remembering where you are at along your journey.
• Not remembering the last several miles that you have traveled.
• Having issues keeping your eyes open.
• Constant yawning or yawning with watery eyes.
• Not being able to focus or think clearly.
Frequently Asked Questions for Staying Awake on the Road
How much Caffeine Should You Take per day? – According to the FDA for healthy adults, you can take safely 400 milligrams a day of caffeine (source). This is approximately four or five cups of coffee per day and is not generally associated with dangerous or negative health effects.
How long should you aim to sleep every night while on the road? – At minimum you should sleep 8 hours per night to live a healthy lifestyle. You will also need to follow the United State Department of Transportation’s general guidelines on sleep and breaks which can be found HERE.
Do Vitamins Help You Stay Awake for Longer? Yes, vitamins such as Folate and Vitamin B-12 can help you feel energized and alert which is ideal for staying focused while on the road. These vitamins help to play a role in providing oxygen to the brain which it needs to work.
How Long Are Most Power Naps? – Most power naps can range anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes and can improve tiredness and drowsiness when driving down the road tremendously. You can also consider adding black-out curtains to help fall asleep faster when you are driving for the day as they help to prevent the sun’s light from entering the sleeper.