NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours
Strategies to prevent a crash due to drowsy driving
- Learn to understand and recognize warning signs of driving drowsy
- If you feel drowsy, pull off at the next exit or rest area, stop driving, and get sleep and/or caffeine.
- Take a nap if you can’t stop driving for long: even 15 to 20 minutes can help. Find a safe place to stop and take a nap.
- Consume caffeine in moderation: the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee can temporarily increase alertness. You could keep caffeine gum in your car so it is readily available. One piece of gum has 100 mg of caffeine. Keep in mind that caffeine may not have much of an effect on people who consume it regularly.
- For an added boost, try consuming caffeine before taking a short nap to get the benefit of both. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to begin working. So pull over, drink a caffeinated beverage, take a short nap, and then get back on the road. But remember this is a temporary aid and not a replacement for getting adequate sleep.
- Check your medication labels for side effects that include sleepiness, or ask your doctor. There may be alternatives that do not have sedating effects. See the section in Module 4 about Chronic Disorders for medications and chronic diseases that can increase daytime sleepiness.
- Remember, the combination of even a low dose of alcohol and extended wakefulness reduces performance further.9 It is best to avoid drinking even small amounts of alcohol when you are at risk for sleep deprivation and are planning to drive.