People are spending more time than ever in their cars. Between long commutes and shuffling kids to the doctor, sports practices, lessons, and other activities, adults are driving for hours every day. The average commute time for a person living in the suburbs is 30 minutes of driving each way. And when looking at commute times in large cities, the total balloons up to hours spent driving or sitting in traffic every single day.
As people work more and drive more, there are, of course, going to be more accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that “drowsy driving” causes more than 70,000 car accidents every year. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving could be responsible for more than 6,000 fatalities a year.
The fact is, drowsy driving is a big problem. However, there are strategies you can use to make sure you are awake and alert while you’re driving. Read on for some actionable tips.
Cut the Commute
The best way to lower the chances of having an accident because you are driving drowsy is to cut your commute time. Assuming that you don’t want to leave your job and can’t move closer to where you work, it’s time to start looking for other solutions—both tried-and-true as well as creative ones—to cut down on commuting time.
Carpool. Although this option won’t necessarily reduce your commuting time, carpooling with someone else can help relieve you of the responsibility of driving home half-awake after a long day at work or driving in the early a.m. hours after a restless night’s sleep. If you have a friend or neighbor who works in the same area as you, see if they would be interested in a rideshare. Driving together can make it easier to stay awake because you have someone to interact with. And since you’d probably split the costs of gas and other expenses like tolls and parking, you may actually save a little money too. Carpooling may not change how much time you spend in the car, but it will lower the chances of drowsy driving.
Use public transportation. If you live in an area with reliable public transportation, taking a bus or train to work each day is an excellent choice. Even if you have to drive to the public transit stop, catching a train or bus will drastically cut the amount of time that you have to spend driving alone in your car. Using public transit can also transform commuting time into your time. Since your eyes don’t have to be on the road, you can read the news or a book, listen to podcasts or music, or even get some extra ZZZs.
Work from home. Businesses these days are more open to employees working at home, or telecommuting, than they used to be. Many employers are willing to accommodate work-from-home arrangements for employees who can stay motivated and be as productive at home as they are in the office. Even if you can’t swing working at home all the time, working remotely a couple of days each week would make your commute a lot easier on the days that you do have to go into the office.
Change your hours. If your boss won’t consider letting you work from home but your commute is difficult and you are having trouble staying awake while driving, talk to your boss about changing your hours. Working during off-hours or shifting your start and stop times to when traffic isn’t as bad can make the commute easier and might help you stay alert on the road. You could also try to negotiate working longer days but fewer days each week. Start thinking outside the box and try to find a solution to your commuting problem so that you’re not driving while you’re exhausted.
Change Your Lifestyle
Your lifestyle can have a big impact on your energy level and fatigue. If there’s no way to avoid a long drive to work every day, you need to be proactive about establishing a healthy lifestyle in the other areas of your life. Strive to boost your energy and reset your internal clock. By making a few good lifestyle choices, you can have less fatigue, more energy, and the ability to stay clear and focused while driving. Consider some of these practices.
Eat healthy. Eating a lot of fried or processed food or constantly picking up takeout or cruising into the drive-through while you’re commuting can wreak havoc on your body. The sugar and caffeine that you consume during those pitstops cause an immediate increase in energy, then a major crash after about an hour. So if you stop at the drive-through on the way home for a fast-food meal and eat it while you commute, by the time you get home you may be drowsy driving. Instead of falling into the fast-food trap, take the time to prep healthy foods and drinks such as protein bars, water, and nuts that you can eat to give you a boost of energy right before you start your drive to work or at the end of the day before you head home.
Get more sleep. If you want to stay awake during your commute, you need to be getting a full 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. However, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. A proper sleep at night is essential for living a healthy life. If you need to make over your nighttime routine, setting a curfew for yourself can be beneficial. If you need to leave for work by 7 a.m., you should be in bed by 10 p.m. in order to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Figure out what time you need to be in bed to get at least 7 hours of sleep, then make sure that you adhere to that bedtime every night.
Improve the quality of your sleep. Staying in bed without sleeping or tossing and turning all night will leave you feeling groggy the next day. A good night’s sleep is essential for anyone who spends a lot of time driving. To make sure that you are getting restful and restorative sleep at night, make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. Invest in good linens and cozy blankets. Get the best pillows that you can afford. Use blackout curtains and high-quality foam earplugs to black out light and sound if you are sensitive to light and noise. And on the occasions you have a lot of trouble sleeping, you can try taking a safe, natural sleeping supplements like RECHARGE HEALTH™ blissful sleep. Consult your doctor before taking supplements regularly, to be sure they are safe for you. But a supplement may be just to the trick to help you get the restorative sleep you need so that you’re not drifting off while you’re driving.
Supplements That Can Help You Stay Awake
There are also herbs and supplements that you can take to help you stay alert when you’re driving, without relying on the highs and lows of caffeine and other quick energy fixes. RECHARGE HEALTH centered energy contains goji berries, rhodiola rosea, CoQ10 and Vitamin B12 to keep you focused, rather than loading you up on caffeine and sugar. If you are going to be doing a lot of driving and you want another way to stay alert naturally, go directly to herbs like these. However, as mentioned previously, always consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
Rosemary: Rosemary—either in a tea form, as a supplement, or in an essential oil—is a fantastic herb to take when you need to stay awake and concentrate. According to a study published in the journal Scientia Pharmaceutica inhaling rosemary essential oil increased brain activity and alertness in participants. Try using rosemary to clear the fog from your mind and improve your alertness while you’re driving.
Other essential oils: Stash a small spray bottle of essential oils mixed with rubbing alcohol to spray in the car to help keep you alert. Or you can use an air freshener scented with essential oils to stimulate your brain to help you stay awake while driving. In addition to rosemary, other essential oils you might try to help you stay alert and focused are basil, lemon, rosemary, peppermint, lemon, or ginger.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is another spice that will improve blood flow to your brain and throughout your body. It increases concentration and alertness. And a study conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found that smelling cinnamon while driving can help you stay awake and remain alert.
Stay Awake, Stay Safe
Driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. That is why you need to know how to stay awake while driving. You are not simply putting your own life at risk but also the lives of others. If you are finding it difficult to stay awake while driving, consider making some lifestyle changes. Getting adequate sleep, changing your daily habits, and, when needed, taking natural supplements, can be beneficial in the long run.