If you’ve been awake for 18 hours, your driving ability is worse than that of a drink-driver.
So, if you get up at 7am, stay awake all days and drive home at 1am, you’re putting yourself and other road users at serious risk.
Leave it until 2, 3 or 4am in the morning and it’s even worse.
Your reactions will be slower, you’ll be less alert and if someone pulls out in front of your car, your brain won’t be able to process the information quickly enough and you’ll be more likely to crash. And that’s assuming you don’t fall asleep entirely.
It’s not just how long you’ve been awake that matters, it’s how much sleep you had the night before. The need for sleep varies from one person to another, but eight hours is common, and a minimum of seven hours is usually needed for optimum performance. If you get less than five hours’ sleep, your driving ability will be badly affected – and if you get too little sleep night after night, the effect will build up.
There are lots of mythical remedies for feeling sleepy, from sucking lemons, to holding money out of the window or even trapping your hair in the sun roof. These are not going to stop you having an accident, and neither will cold air on your face, loud music, taking a walk or sheer willpower. There is only one really effective way to reduce sleepiness – and that’s to sleep.
If you’re driving and you start to feel sleepy:
Get plenty of rest before you set off.
- Avoid alcohol before any journey – even a small amount can make you more tired.
- Take regular and proper breaks – a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving.
- Caffeinated drinks can help boost energy but they take 20 minutes to have an effect.
- Avoid heavy meals before and during journeys, especially at lunch time.
- If you can, share long journeys with another driver – alternating driving and resting.
- If necessary, schedule an overnight stop for really long drives.