I believe this problem is well known to most drivers: there are times you just feel your eyes closing while driving, even if you slept well the night before.

Ideally, you would stop the car in a gas station and "refresh" yourself, or even stop the car in the side of the road and take a short nap. However, this isn't always possible (e.g. long highroad) so I would like to know if there are any small hacks to help me go through this awake and safe.

So, how to prevent myself from falling asleep while driving a car?


10 Answers 10


These are some tricks that work for me:

  • Having a cold beverage to drink (while driving, but carefully) works very well for me. I guess it's better if it has caffeine, I usually use Coke, but even water works.

  • Anything that makes you stay more active, e.g.

    • eating a candy once in a while, those that will last some minutes in your mouth (Halls, for example)
    • listening to music which you can sing along (sing to yourself if you don't want to disturb other people).
  • You can also try some mental games, as long as they don't distract your attention of the road too much. I like trying to form words out of the plates letters. (In spain the plates have 9999 BBB format, so it can be funny).
  • Try to set the air conditioning a bit low, 1-2 degree under your comfort temperature, or open the window a bit. If you travel alone, open the other side window. Fresh air helps a lot.
  • 4
    You plan is to take someone who is tired already and thus not concentrating or functioning at 100%, and then give them some additional tasks to do such as drinking a beverage or playing mental games... That doesn't sound very safe.
    – aaa
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 15:16
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    "even if you slept well the night before." - This happens to me also, if the car inside is warm, or if it's dark outside, or noone is talking in the car...you get "bored" and your eyes might close. I asumed his eyes aren't closing 'cause he is tired. If you are tired there is no hack of course, just sleep, but in other situations this will help. These are not random ideas, it is something that works for me. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 15:19
  • @aaa try stopping the car in the middle of a long highway. If you survive, let me know how safe it is. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 6:18
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    Sounds like a very badly designed highway if there is no way to pull over or take a break. What happens if your car breaks down or you run out of energy/fuel? What happens if you get a flat tyre?
    – aaa
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 8:04
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    Your canonical "middle of a long highway" is I-80 across the mind-numbingly-boring Utah salt flats. No gas for 100 miles, but a rest area every 10 because drowsy driving kills. You can barely see the salt flats for all the signs warning of the hazards of drowsy driving and telling you where the next stop is. These hacks don't work for more than a few minutes. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 8:13

The only safe option is to avoid getting into this situation in the first place with better planning. If you do end up like this, the only safe thing to do is pull over and rest.

Nothing else will allow you to drive safely when tired.

  • 2
    Nothing will be 100% safe, of course, but the other answer proves there are tricks that work just fine in most cases. So saying "Nothing will work" is just not true. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 10:57
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    +1 that is the only hack that will not only save your life but also the life of others.
    – Takkat
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 13:02
  • While I agree that this is the best option. But this isn't really a "hack".
    – Amanda R.
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 22:01
  • @ShadowWizard they seem to work, they feel like they ought to work. They don't, it's a mind trick. At best they're good to limp to a safe turn-off. But the idea that mental games can make you safe in these conditions is as self-serving and rationalizing as the idea that coffee can sober up a drunk driver. An appropriate analogy since a drowsy driver is equally dangerous. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 8:07

My standard method is when I notice I am beginning to fall asleep, I open a bag of very crunchy snacks (Corn Nuts!) and eat ONE every 60 seconds.

The stimulation of the crunching wakes up the brain and watching the digital clock for the one-minute mark helps.

But as I drive and eat, I also begin to look for a place where I can safely get off the road and take a nap. This technique works for 30 to 45 minutes.

  1. Open a window all the way, even if it's freezing cold.
  2. Radio / music player on at high volume.
  3. Static exercises, i.e. butt clench, squeeze the steering wheel, left leg press etc.

Please note however, these are EMERGENCY procedures, i.e. there is no way to safely stop and take a "power nap". The 15 minute power nap is the thing I find works the best.

  • 1
    Somehow missed it. +1 only for "butt clench". Priceless. Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 10:51

Pull over and sleep. Seriously. Exhausted driving is serious business. It is as bad as being drunk. Don't Do It!

Cops out in rural areas know that, and if you're pulled over at a sensible location, they would much rather let you sleep than close the highway for an hour while the fire department uses the jaws of life on your victim. They've been there too many times.

Urban cops haven't, so they're not as into it.

Good places to pull over and nap are (mind you, the more rural, the better) in order of preference:

  • rest areas (obviously)... There is a rest area every 10 miles in the Utah Salt Flats, and at 80mph posted, that is 7.5 minutes between them. They're not fooling around, it is the #1 highway killer in Utah.
  • truck stops, which are now called "travel centers" and aggressively market to automobiles now.
  • Wal-marts, as most are 24x7, or comparable stores like Meijer, or other 24x7 retail, e.g. Grocery stores or auto parts where those are 24x7.
  • Restaurants if open 24x7, e.g. Denny's, particularly if just for an hour or two
  • almost any 24x7 gas station if it's only for a few hours, Wawa, Sheetz, Speedway etc.

Lay your head down and sleep til you wake up. It might be 30 minutes and you are refreshed and good for another hour or two. Might be an hour, might be all night. You will be awoken by the car getting cold or hot, or needing bathroom, or the sun (or not depending on how bad you need the sleep!)

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    While this may be true, this is not a life hack and not what I asked for. Thanks for the concern for my life (really! :)) but this answer simply does not fit this question and website, in my humble opinion. Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 11:41
  • Some problems are not amenable to hacks.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 13:22

This may be a terrible solution, but it works for me and is what my step-grandpa-in-law suggested (a former traveling salesman)

Bite the wheel

I find it to be much harder to fall asleep when biting down on the steering wheel.

  • 1
    Nah, it's full with germs. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 20:29

If you're by yourself, put on some music you like and sing along.

  • That answer has already been given and accepted.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 8:48

chew gum it increases your brain tension and also makes sure the blood flows to your brain keeping you awake. this also helps because your muscles are doing work instead of just sitting in one spot.


Whenever I have to make a long trip without getting a full nights rest I usually pop 15mg of adderall and I have no problem staying up for about 4-6 hours. Ymmv


For almost two years now, I make myself a cold coffee in a paper cup when leaving work and taking it with me to the car, every day.

I place it in the designated area for cups, between the front seats:

cup of coffee

Then whenever feeling tired, taking a small quick sip from the coffee, carefully.

(While mentioned as part of the accepted answer, wanted to share and elaborate for sake of those reading the thread.)

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