You know the feeling. You’ve been cruising along for hours, hunched in the driver’s seat. You’ve passed the point of boredom and are now being lulled into a hazy daydream by the monotony of the trip.
As you probably know, that feeling poses more of a threat than just boredom. Avoiding highway hypnosis, that trance-like state you feel during long trips, can be a matter of life and death.
There’s no replacement for a good night’s sleep, but if it’s not exhaustion you’re battling, and instead it feels like you simply can’t maintain focus, try these tips to help you stay alert and make it to your destination safely.
#1 – Strike up a Conversation
Nothing engages the mind and helps you stay more alert while driving than a conversation with a friend. Bring a long road trip buddy whenever you can, and if you can’t, call up (hands-free, of course) someone you’ve been meaning to check in on.
Run out of things to talk about? Go old-school and play the license plate game, 20 questions, or a memory game. No conversation tactic is too juvenile when it comes to helping the driver stay focused on their mission.
Unlike listening to a podcast, which requires no feedback from its listener, your conversation will keep your mind active and occupied and help you avoid that drowsy feeling.
#2 – Stay Cool
If you’ve been driving for hours, now is not the time to turn on the seat warmers. Part of staying alert means avoiding that cozy feeling reminiscent of daydreaming or nap time, and cooler temperatures can help you stay out of that zone.
So while you might offer the seat warmer option to your passengers, opt for cooler temps coming through the vents toward the driver’s side or roll the windows down to feel the cold outside air.
#3 – Keep Away from Cruise Control
Cruise control gives you the option to remove one more element of the drive you’d normally give your attention to. While appealing, you don’t want to hand over the control since that will help you settle into a cozy, autopilot state.
You’ll stay more alert if you force yourself to keep some focus on your car’s speed and avoid the easy coasting. Additionally, keeping your gas pedal leg and foot active adds another fraction of engagement for the body and mind.
You can go on autopilot once you get to your destination!
#4 – Take Cleansing Breaths and Stretch
Taking in more oxygen, alleviating posture problems, and loosening up the muscles will do wonders for your mind and body if you’re struggling to stay alert as you drive.
Start by taking some deep, cleansing breaths. Picture your belly inflating as you inhale and sinking back down as you exhale. Notice the difference in temperature of your breath as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Try “measuring” your breath – breathing in for a count of three and then exhaling for a count of three.
As you grip the steering wheel, melt your shoulders down away from your ears. Then, flowing with your breath, move your shoulders up as you breathe in and back down as you breathe out.
All of these gentle movements will help focus the mind and relieve tension that can build up throughout the body as you drive uninterrupted for long stretches.
#5 – Crank the Music Up
It doesn’t get much easier than simply turning the volume up. A higher decibel can command your attention as you cruise down the highway.
The next time you find your focus wavering, try picking a favorite genre and cranking up the tunes. You might even be inspired to belt out a chorus or two, which certainly will help keep you (and your passengers) alert.
#6 – Stop for a Coffee Break
It’s no secret that caffeine gives you a jolt of energy, but there’s more to this tip than what every early riser could already tell you. Stopping your journey and actually taking a break — getting out of your car and ordering your grande mocha latte from inside the establishment — gives you a chance to change your scenery as well as grab a pick-me-up.
Stopping every few hours to get the blood flowing is a great way to increase alertness once you return to the driver’s seat, and a little caffeine goes a long way towards that same goal.
#7 – Chow Down (Wisely)
A road trip wouldn’t be possible without fueling up your gas tank, so don’t attempt your journey without fueling your body. Before and during your trip, snack wisely. Avoid heavy meals and “empty” calories, which will just leave you feeling sluggish.
Pack or order options low in sugar and high in lean protein. A fruit and nut trail mix is the perfect combination of convenience and nourishment that won’t send you into a food coma.
Stay Alert on the Road
Staying hyper-focused and vigilant during long road trips isn’t always easy, but it is imperative for the safety of you and others on the road.
These tips will help you avoid that feeling of highway hypnosis and keep you safely truckin’ along towards your destination.