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Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to prevent microsleeps on long drives ?

Saab 9000 interior
Many of us knows the sleepy feeling after several hours of driving and everybody knows that microsleeps can kill. According to studies up to 20% and more all car accidents are caused by driver fatigue or microsleeps.

During a microsleep a driver completely stops to perceive the ambient plus after the fear after waking up while driving can cause wrong reactions with fatal consequences.

The investigations for such crashes often reports no marks after hard breaking, strange reactions in front of clear and visible obstacles or driving to other lanes without any visible reason.

I had such an experience. Several years ago after ~1800 km and several hours of tiring meetings I woke up  in the emergency lane of a highway in 130 km/h. I had luck, nothing happened, I had to rest for longer time. This "adventure" teached me to be extremely cautious on the road.

Reasons for microsleeps :
There are various reasons and combinations of them. Insufficient sleeping before the drive. Too much heating in the cabin. A long night drive and fight against biorythms, most sleepiness comes between 2 - 5 a.m. and 3 - 4 p.m.. Boring highway drive, all the time the same ambient. Too much eating before or during the drive (look at postprandial somnolence). Too many energy drinks, they can cause opposite effect, if they are too many.

Some example what can happen are shown in this video. There are several vehicle manufacturer independent warning systems (non-commercial example is here), but not all of us have them and to completely rely on them isn't too healthy as well.

So how to prevent microsleeps ?

How to prevent microsleeps :
Someone asked in a closed forum, what people do to stay awake in the long drives. Here is an extract from useful answers :
  • if you can, drive through the day
  • plan ahead, try to avoid traffic peaks around cities
  • every 2.5 - 3 hours stop a bit of physical activity, which increases blood circulation
  • to be not hungry and not sated, somewhere in between
  • dont eat too much and heavy food, better light food and more often
  • eat some sugar if possible, in chocolate or so
  • eat fruits for fast sugar
  • sometimes let cold air into the car, it wakes up, make draught
  • drink a lot of water, coffee or energy drinks later, when it starts to be long
  • listen to music, sometimes loud and with faster tempo
  • listen to audiobooks or radio with spoken word
  • don't drive boring slow, do not speed, but drive "fresh" or change "heartbeat" of your driving
  • have a camera with you, if a good target for a picture comes, photograph it
  • surf on the radio stations
  • speak with the others in the cabin, but if it makes you tired, tell them to be quiet

Besided of this, my experience says, the older I am, the more sleepy I am getting. It's a completely different feeling, when I drove in age between 20-30 years and now around 40. 

If you have other recipes against to get tired on the road and to prevent microsleeps, the comment section is for you.

Happy saabing.


  1. Be prepared to stop if necessary on any journey, no matter how pressed for time one might be.
    As soon as becoming aware of any drowsiness,
    pull over at the first safe opportunity, stop and rest [for up to an hour].
    Lay the seat back; don't remain in an upright seated position. Lock car doors.
    When again feeling fine, take a drink of water, a short walk in the fresh air.
    Only then continue the journey, being very aware that the situation may repeat. Take care!

  2. My recipe is to get Power Nap in Rest Area for 20 minutes