If you know you'll be driving for long enough to get sleepy, drink a cup of coffee and take a 15-minute nap before you go. "That way, when you get up, the coffee has kicked in, and the boost from the nap will give you an extra level of energy," says Ralph Downey III, PhD, director of Loma Linda University Sleep Disorders Center in California.
If you do feel alert enough to get in the car safely, try this trick once you're on the road: Downey's patients like to eat sunflower seeds while they drive, because it takes some effort to crack open the shell with your teeth and work the seed out with your tongue. "When our muscles are moving our bodies tend to be more alert," he says. Still, sunflower seeds won't cure drowsiness any more than loud singing. "The important point is this: If you are to the point of being creative to stay awake and drive, you probably shouldn't be driving."
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you are twice as likely to have a car crash, and three to five times as likely to have a serious crash involving personal injury than someone without the disorder, according to a 2008 study by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
All those tricks you have for staying alert while you driverolling down the windows, turning up the radio, chugging coffeewon't do a thing if you're already drowsy, says James Wyatt, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. His advice: "If you're falling asleep on your 15-minute ride home, you should absolutely not be driving."