Staying awake behind the wheel


I do a lot of long-distance driving and keeping myself alert and wakeful is always a challenge. Drinking coffee and caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull and whatnot is a pretty good strategy to stay alert, but it kind of gives me the shakes and jitters after a while. Know any good tricks to stay awake behind the wheel?

— Brian, Clairemont

Staying perky is one thing, awake is another. If you’re out there fighting off sleep, do us all a favor and just don’t drive. I don’t want to read more obituaries than I have to in the course of normal life, okay? Having said that, I realize that you and others in your position are going to keep doing what you do. With the caveat that I’d rather see you just not drive, I’ll offer the following advice straight from Uncle Marvin Alice, who did a few stints as a long-haul trucker way back when Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull were just glints in the marketeers’ eyes: Drink water. Lots of it. Drink until you’re full and then drink a little more. Pretty soon, you’ll have to pee like a racehorse. Don’t. If you think you know the meaning of focus, try spending hours behind the wheel of a car with a full bladder begging for release. You will be able to think of nothing else. Sleep will become a joke, a thing you used to do before you had to hold back oceans of fluid by sheer willpower alone. Good luck.

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My office is in Irvine. I work from home part time and up there a couple days a week. When I first started, I was up there 4 days a week.

Drink lots of water - not to keep yourself "in need to go" mode, but because it keeps your energy levels up. Also, a snack on the road is really helpful - but make it small. Nothing like eating a huge lunch (going big on a catered meal at the office is a killer) then trying to drive for 1.5 hours.

Trail mix. Dried fruit. Small snacks over time.

Good luck.

When getting tired while driving, try meditation. just take few deep breaths, close your eyes, and when you hear the sound of the bumps on the freeway, horns, and screeching tires, open your eyes. You'll be fresh as a daisy with all the adrenaline now pumping through your body. My grandfather did that until he was 97 years old. He died in his sleep, not like the other screaming passengers.

Every one is differernt, I'll grant. But one sure fire way for me when I get the "nods" is to immediately pull off the road, get out, walk around the car a couple times, check the oil, etc. Get back in and you're good to go. Works everytime.

Tickle the roof of your mouth with your tongue. (DO NOT try and get someone to do it for you.)

I'm surprised at the unseriousness of the comments. Sure, "close your eyes", the next thing you'll wake up to is a guardrail like I did, or a killer tree. Coffee/RedBull//fluids are not the answer. How long before they take affect before you hit that tree, and when do you get the downer after they wear off? Its your brain, man, its tricked into thinking "soft chair, nice breeze from the vents, hypnotic thumps from the road tar seams, why, it must be bed time!". Why do you think many a frustrated parent has to tke the baby for a drive to put it to sleep? Stop the vehicle, and your brain says "whoa, we've got something to fire off the synapses for here". Then your little trooper brain cells will get in line. Of course, I'm not talking effects of alchohol/drugs here, in which case your ass is already in the grass. This from a long line of cross-country sales drivers.

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