Holiday plans have been made. The family and pets are loaded into the car and off we drive to our much anticipated year-end or mid-year break. South Africa’s a big country blessed with wonderful leisure opportunities. Whether we head off to somewhere along our extensive coastline or an exciting inland destination, a long drive there and back is usually part of the holiday.
Our road safety statistics aren’t encouraging so over and above the usual checks to ensure that the car is roadworthy and the driver is following the rules of the road, here are some tips to help drivers stay alert and keep awake, especially on the long open stretches.
- Driving can be very draining. Best practice is to stop every 200 kms. It gives you a chance to stretch and wake up the body with a quick walk, eat or drink something light, and get back into the car energised for another 200 kms.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Don’t drink sugary drinks or eat sweets. Sugar causes several responses in the body which result in brain fog and sleepiness.
- Stay hydrated and keep drinking water or non-sugary drinks. Drink slowly which helps you to stay active. Drinking also results in a restroom stop every 200 kms .
- If eating in the car, choose small pieces that you can nibble on. Another activity.
- Avoid large, greasy meals which send your body into an energy slump afterwards and make you want to take a nap. Rather choose light frequent meals like fruit, salad or grilled chicken which help to keep your blood sugar stable. A stable blood sugar level feeds your brain and keeps it alert.
- Chew gum to keep your mouth busy. It works because it stops you yawning which stops you from nodding off. So ignore that aching jaw and chew, chew, chew.
- If you are starting to feel sleepy open a window and let a good strong breeze perk you up. Wipe your face and neck with a wet cloth. Set the car temperature cooler than usual and let the vents blow on your face.
- Don’t use cruise control which is restful and can therefore help you to feel sleepy.
- Listen to upbeat music, an audio book, speak to people in the car, sing along to music.
- There’s a reason why we sleep at night. Darkness stimulates our bodies to produce melatonin which is the hormone that puts us to sleep. Prevention is better than cure, so stop at a well-lit rest stop before you are sleepy and walk around under the lights. However once melatonin is in our system it is difficult to regain an alert frame of mind without a 15 minute nap.
- If the urge to sleep is overwhelming pull in to a garage, rest stop or somewhere safe, set your mobile phone to 15 minutes and have a nap. This short break should perk you up enough for two more hours of driving. Don’t rest for longer than 15 minutes because you don’t want to fall into a deep sleep which requires a full sleep cycle to make you feel rested.
- Nowhere safe to stop, you’re on your own and falling asleep? Slap your face, open the window, sing out loud, raise and lower your body position in your seat, listen to loud music you don’t like. These are desperate times!
- Take a friend. Having at least one friend or family member in the car who is committed to keeping the driver awake, supplied with drinks and snacks and in good spirits is a great boost to a pleasant journey and safety.
- Or, if for some reason this desirable person is not available, you could consider Turbovite’s range of body and mind energy boosters to help you to remain alert and energised.
Long drives there and back are part of being South African. Stay alert, keep safe and enjoy the ride!