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Staying Awake While Driving

Erasmus Erasmus : Many people would tell you that you should not drive if you're sleepy. And this is certainly good advice.

However what are you going to do if you're sleepy at 2 o'clock in the afternoon? Do you intend to go to sleep for an hour and a half while everyone else waits for you to be rested? Is there a place to sleep? Do you have any deadlines? (E.g. a plane to catch).

Kinkajou Kinkajou: It is not always practical to take a rest if you are feeling sleepy. The people around you may not let you do this. Your physical circumstances may not let you do this. Your deadlines may not let you do this.

If you knew you were going to die at a result of driving in the next hour, you would probably do things differently.

But no one knows their future. The probability of dying as a result of driving while sleepy is not high, but it is definitely not zero either.

Tired and Driving Driving while sleepy is dangerous.
Kinkajou Kinkajou: So how do you keep awake?

Erasmus Erasmus : Strategy One: Exercise is good. I find about 3 sets of about 14 push-ups definitely give you some activation. One set of push-ups doesn't quite do it. Easy to do, if embarrassing to do by the side of the road. Some people recommend other activities such as sprints while you're off the road.

Strategy Two: Medications and Stimulants. Drinking caffeine or taking Sudafed (a nasal decongestant with pseudoephedrine) can be very useful strategies to maintaining wakefulness. These are the basis of the truckies cures for sleepiness. The trouble with the stimulants is that they do disturb brain function. Yes you stay awake. But now your reaction times are reduced and your reaction to altered situations is impaired.

I would add another layer to the medication strategy for staying awake. If you are feeling achy and painy, taking some simple pain relieving medication such as Panadol (paracetamol) or ibuprofen can help you to feel better and will likely keep you more awake.

Strategy Three: Stop the car and take a power nap. If all you do is keep your eyes closed and try to sleep for a period of time such as 10 or 15 minutes, this can be enough to turn off the sleep switch in your brain. Even if you do not sleep, you can feel a lot more alert. More importantly, the drift towards sleep can definitely be turned off.

Driving Accident Accident.
Sleep issues in accidents are common.

Kinkajou Kinkajou : As a general rule it is important to avoid alcohol and other sedatives/ drugs. Marijuana for some people can be terribly sedating.

Erasmus Erasmus : Remember that cars move surprisingly quickly. A car driving at 60 kph which is roughly equivalent to 40 mph is travelling at roughly 17 m/s. This means that if you lose consciousness for 2 seconds you have travelled 34 meters. If you lose consciousness for 5 seconds, you have travelled 85m.

Even a micro blackout, which removes your attention to the road for half a second of time, can easily put you into oncoming traffic - a collision likely to be at an effective speed of 120 km/h (2 cars at 60)). This represents a lot of energy and a lot of capacity for damage to yourself and other people. So beware.

However taking some basic preventative steps can mean that you never need to risk falling asleep while driving.