Have you ever felt sleepy behind the wheel? That’s your cue to stop. Don’t keep driving down the road with symptoms of fatigue. Sleepiness (or fatigue) is one of the leading factors contributing to road crashes. A driver who has been awake for 17 hours has a driving ability similar to that of a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, and after 21 hours, similar to a BAC of 0.15.
Fatigue makes a very dangerous passenger. So on your next road trip, instead of driving off into the sunset, get yourself settled in for the night, watch the sun go down and bank a good nights sleep for the next day. However, if you find yourself on the road and starting to get drowsy, a power nap might be in order. While it can’t replace adequate or good quality nighttime sleep, a short power nap of 20 minutes can help improve mood, alertness and performance, usually without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with night sleep.
But….. there’s an art to power napping. Here’s what to do:
- Find a safe place, like a rest stop to pull your car over. Do not park on the side of the road. If it’s night-time, park in a well-lit area with plenty of people around and lock all of your doors.
- Make sure you are comfortable and try to limit the amount of noise and light filtering in. Switch your phone to flight mode and play some soft, relaxing music.
- Caffeine right before you nap can have benefits. This may sound counter intuitive since caffeine is a stimulant, but since it can take 30+ minutes to be absorbed, a small amount right before a nap will not only improve your performance, but it’ll also lessen how sleepy you feel once you wake up.
- Set an alarm on your phone – the perfect power nap lasts between 10-20 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia” – that unpleasant groggy feeling that takes a long time to shake off.
- Get up as soon as the alarm goes off. Walk around for a few minutes to get your blood flowing and rehydrate with a good drink of water.
- For long trips, schedule your nap-times in – if you nap too late in the day, it might affect your night time sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep.
Remember: A power-nap can only do so much. Naps don’t give your body enough time in deep sleep, the most restorative sleep stage. As with most debt, once you owe your body sleep, the only way out is to pay it off.