Driving Drowsy: Should you go for a power nap or coffee?

  • Jun 26, 2018

Feeling drowsy and still driving is a pretty dangerous thing to do on the road. If you are really tired and your eyelids are heavy, it is recommended to pull over and take a break. What now? Should you go for a cup of cappuccino or take a power nap.

Tips to saty awake while driving

According to "Aging and Nocturnal Driving: Better with Coffee or a Nap?, a random study published in the Sleep journal in 2007 suggested that it actually varies with the driver's age. During the study, two groups were taken one ageing between 20-25 years and the other set with individuals within 40-50 years. They were subjected to either a cup of coffee or a 30-minute nap.

Then they drove for about 200 km on an expressway between 6:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and 2:00 am and 3:00 am. Improper lane changing, polysomnography, and passenger observations were carefully analyzed.

Drink Coffee to avoid drowsiness

It was observed that caffeine performed well in reducing the risks of lane crossing for both the young and middle-aged group. In addition to that, caffeine improved performance and activeness in both the groups. On the other hand, power-nap was more efficient with the younger group as compared to the other group. However, thirty minutes of sleep was not efficient in getting rid of the tiredness. Perhaps the drivers needed more sleep.

Most of us think that we can control our mind and keep it active, even when we are feeling drowsy while driving. But the fact is sleep is much more powerful then we can imagine and it can overpower even the best amongst the lot. Often people try to overcome their sleep by rolling down their windows and turning up their speakers. However, these tricks hardly work. It is therefore important to know how to handle drowsiness and ensure your and others safety on the road.

Nap in car

It is very hard to tell whether you are too drowsy to drive. Here are some indications that it’s time for that coffee break:

  • Difficulty in focusing, heavy eyelids and continuous blinking.

  • Disconnected thoughts, daydreaming and a wandering mind

  • Difficulty in remembering the last few stops; skipping exits or traffic signs

  • Rubbing of eyes frequently and yawning repeatedly

  • Trouble in keeping your head straight

  • Automatically drifting from your lane or tailgating

  • Feeling restless and irritated while driving

Just before a person falls asleep while driving, there is a cycle that follows it. A slower reaction, dimmed vision, lapses in attention are some factors that make driving drowsy very dangerous.

Concentrate while driving

Driving is a complicated activity and needs many things to be taken care of at once. All of your senses should be active to understand each decision you make with every passing second. Even when you are awake, your brain is not functioning aptly to handle these decisions. According to various studies, excessive sleepiness enhances the chances of risk-taking and decreases judgment power.

The best way to keep your body and mind prepared for a long drive is to take a good night sleep before moving ahead. Some other methods that you can keep in mind include :

  • A powernap: Taking a nap before a trip can compensate for those hours of sleep you lost at night

  • Drink caffeine: As discussed above, drinking caffeine enhances the activeness of brain and keeps you awake. However, it is applicable only for a short duration of time

  • Mid-drive nap: If you find yourself drowsy at any point in time, pull over your vehicle and take a nap for about 15 minutes

  • Switching drivers: It is advisable to have two drivers when going on long trips. Stop after every 3 hours and switch. One driver can go for a nap while the other takes on the steering.

  • Drive slow: Better late than never. Drive at a constant speed when you are drowsy and avoid changing lanes frequently.

Alcohol with friends

  • Don’t consume alcohol: Even a nip of alcohol could enhance the drowsiness.

  • Avoid driving at midnight: Do not drive between 12:00 am to 6 am because the sleep cycle is most intense during this time.

  • Take small breaks: Stop after every 2 hours and go for a facewash everytime you take a break.


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