Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Sadly, your vacation is over, and you’ve landed back in your country, ready to finish the last leg of your journey and head home. But although the end is near, there is one thing you should be aware of before you start your engine.
Although vacations are a time to recharge, relax, and catch up on some much-needed rest, there are plenty of destinations that actually do the opposite, leaving you more tired than before you even left. They’re totally worth it, of course, but now you probably feel like you need a vacation after your vacation.
Throw in a flight—especially one with a late night or early morning departure—and you return home exhausted, in need of a good night’s sleep before returning to reality.
There is a huge—and potentially life-threatening—danger that comes with the end of a vacation. And no, we aren’t talking about the vacation blues. All your travel, activities, and hours upon hours spent in the airport can lead to drowsy driving. That is if you plan on driving all the way home from the airport.
You may not know this, but falling asleep at the wheel is a very common occurrence, and many crashes are a result of a driver dozing off without even realizing it.
There is no denying that exhaustion sets in after traveling, and even if you’ve consumed more caffeine than you can even remember, the possibility of falling asleep while driving is high.
Tiredness can affect the way you think and how you react to certain situations. I mean, we’ve all said or done things out of character when we’re tired, haven’t we? So, getting behind the wheel while in this sleepy state could be detrimental to your safety, your passenger’s safety, and the safety of other drivers around you.
All it takes is one second of you falling asleep to cause an accident, so I’m sure you can imagine the outcome that could take place if you were driving down a highway at a reasonable speed.
When Do Sleep-Related Crashes Occur?
Sleep-related crashes can occur at any point of the day; however, between the hours of 1 pm and 4 pm and 2 am and 6 am are when crashes are far more likely.
Your body naturally gets drowsy in the early morning hours and in the afternoon, so combine that with not getting enough sleep while on vacation and traveling, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Signs That You Need to Pull Over
It’s always best to arrange a taxi service or a friend/family member to pick you up from the airport. However, if driving home is your only option, then here are some signs that you need to pull over:
- Not being able to focus your eyes
- Head bobbing
- Rubbing your eyes and having difficulty keeping them open
- Drifting into another lane
- Restlessness or fidgeting
- Getting easily frustrated
- Braking too late
- Driving too close to other cars
- Not being able to remember the last few minutes of driving
What To Do If You Get Tired at the Wheel
If you do begin to feel sleepy while driving, you should immediately pull over where it is safe to do so. If you’re on the highway, take the next exit or find a rest stop or a service station.
Take a Nap
Once you’ve safely pulled over, a short 20-minute nap can make all the difference to your ability to drive. Sleeping for longer than 20 minutes can put you into a deep sleep cycle, which will only make you feel worse when you wake up.
Do some Exercise
It’s odd that doing exercise actually gives you more energy, isn’t it? But a brisk walk, some stretching, or even some jumping jacks can increase your alertness, making it safer for you to drive home.
Caffeine is a short-term fix, but drinking a cup of coffee or an energy drink 30 minutes before getting back on the road can give you the surge of energy you need to make it home in one piece.
Drinking caffeine should only be paired with a nap, so never substitute sleep for coffee.
Splash Cold Water on Your Face
Splashing cold water on your face draws circulation toward your head, making you feel more awake—especially after you’ve had a 20-minute nap.