I recently read in the paper of a 46-year-old man who commutes a 362 mile trip to work, every day.

Gary Egan’s alarm goes off at 3.30am and he’s at his desk 181-miles away, three hours later. He works 12 hours, and then sets off back on his 181-mile journey home.  To be honest, I feel exhausted writing that down.

Not only must the poor guy be absolutely shattered but the effects of lack of sleep plus the sheer amount of driving could have serious consequences for his health and the safety of others.

Whether it’s been a late night or a disturbed night, lost sleep can be hard to control especially when you’re driving and trying desperately to stay awake. Gary is even quoted as saying ‘there are times when I have to get my wife to call me to make sure I don’t fall asleep at the wheel.’

There are many dangers of being sleepy while driving.  If you’re sleep deprived, not only are you less alert but you’re less likely to make good decisions, focus on tasks or manage a friendly mood. Did you also know that if a worker loses just one night of sleep his cognitive ability is roughly the same as being over the legal alcohol limit?

Statistics show that approximately one quarter of all road crashes that cause serious injury or death are sleep related and that an estimated 300 people are killed on UK roads every year where a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel.

Not only that but lack of sleep will affect your mood – making you more liable to swings in temper. According to research bad sleepers suffer twice as much road rage as rested drivers.  They also make nearly double the blunders in and out the car and have twice the memory lapses.

If you find yourself feeling sleepy, follow our top tips for staying awake:

  • Get some fresh air. Pull over and have a walk around for 10-15 minutes. It will make you more alert and is a good distraction if you’ve been driving for a period of time. If you really can’t stop or find a suitable space to stop, then open a window or turn the air con on.
  •  Listen to music. Perk yourself up by listening to music. Music triggers emotional responses in humans, helping us engage many parts of the brain.
  •  Food faux pas: Avoid high carb or sugary foods that give you that mid-morning/afternoon crash and try not to eat so you’re full. Excess eating leaves you sleepy.
  •  Stay hydrated: Being dehydrated can make you feel sleepy and dizzy so keep a cold bottle of water to drink close by.
  •  Power napping: If you’ve a long drive ahead try to break the journey up with  a power nap – around 15-20 minutes. Find a safe and suitable location and pull over and nod off.
  •  Caffeine Fix: If you find yourself feeling sleepy find a safe place to stop and drink two cups of coffee or high-caffeine drink. Rest for around 10-15 minutes to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.
  •  Regular routines: Ultimately the best way to stop yourself feeling sleepy at work is to get regular good quality sleep at night.  Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better. Make sure your bed is comfortable. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on one that’s too soft, too hard, too small or too old. Also ensure your environment is fit for rest and sleep. It should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible.
  • Remember, the only real cure for sleepiness is proper sleep. A caffeine drink or a nap is a short-term solution that will only allow you to keep driving for a short time. And in the long run, relying on caffeine and napping will only lead to further sleep problems.
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