Hey Lifehacker, What would be the best way to ensure I stay awake when driving home from work each day? I have a 40-50 minute drive home every day, and it's become so straightforward that I find my eyes closing. It's not that I don't get enough sleep the night before (I get at least 7 hours every night), it's just that the drive is so habitual now that my brain seems to just 'check out'.
The scenery is exactly the same, the cars are generally exactly the same, I know where all the bumps in the road are. I've tried playing loud music and having my windows down, but they don't help much. What else could I do to keep my brain engaged, and not continually zoning out? Thanks, Almost Asleep At The Wheel
Sleeping driver picture from Shutterstock
First off, it can't be overstated enough that if you ever begin to feel lethargic or drowsy while driving, you really need to pull over for a few minutes and revive yourself. Trying to keep your eyes open through will-power alone is akin to playing Russian roulette — don't do it.
That said, there are plenty of ways to stay alert and well-rested behind the wheel without the need for a mental pit stop. This infographic shows a bunch of simple ways to keep yourself awake, including pulling down on your earlobes, rubbing the back of your hand between your thumb and index finger (not really advisable while driving), and sniffing peppermint oil.
But these are all short-term solutions. What you really want to do is identify what is making you tired in the first place — boredom and monotony are likely to be the catalyst rather than the root cause.
The first thing to do is to assess the quality of your sleep. As we have noted in the past, the amount of 'deep sleep' you get is generally more important than the total number of hours. If you tend to toss and turn in bed, those seven hours probably aren't doing their job. This in-depth article explains how various technologies can help you get a perfect night's shut-eye.
Other than that, some other possible solutions include using public transport for part of your journey, playing podcasts which tend to be more engaging than music and driving home via different routes.
Depending on how fit you are, you may find that an improved diet and a bit of extra exercise could also boost your energy levels. You can find plenty of fitness and dietary advice via our Losing Weight, Eating Healthy and Exercise tags.
If any readers have their own remedies against unwanted sleepiness, let AAATW know in the comments section below.
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