Not a recommended rest stop method (in Death Valley CA courtesy papalars at Flickr CC)

Not a recommended rest stop method – sleep NEXT to the road instead, or things won’t end well (in Death Valley CA courtesy papalars at Flickr CC)

It’s taken many years of fighting the urge – rolling down the windows, cranking up the music, smacking my face, pouring another cup of coffee or Red Bull – to learn that when you get sleepy while driving, the best cure for it is some….sleep.

That’s right. When you’re sleepy, pull over and sleep.

Through cross-country road trips to mere 3-4 hour jaunts, I’ve dealt with that woozy, dreamy urge. Eyelids like anvils, afraid to put my head back on the headrest for fear I’d doze off, playing mental images of head-on collisions to scare myself awake.

I don’t know why I used to resist the idea of taking a rest. The sleepies usually hit when I didn’t absolutely have to be somewhere at a certain time; they often came on the way home after some big event or conference or meeting. There was hardly ever a situation when I had to be somewhere and couldn’t take the time to stop, but I resisted stopping anyway.

“It’ll go away.”

“I’m fine.”

“How about all the windows down AND Guns N’ Roses turned way up – that’ll work.”

A few years ago, I was on my way back from something, it was just after midnight and I was dying. I exited in some small town off the Interstate where the stoplights had shifted to their overnight flashing, and parked in a lot by the local Department of Public Safety. After texting my husband that I was going to snooze for a bit, I made sure the doors were locked, rolled up a sweater behind my neck, cranked the driver’s seat way back and surrendered to the sleep monster that was banging on my head, demanding entry.

To my surprise, I only slept about 45 minutes, and I awoke feeling 1,000% more refreshed.

I also thought, “Why in the world don’t I do this more often, if I need to?” From then on, about every third or fourth road trip, I’d succumb. Exit, find a reasonably well-lighted and well-trafficked spot, text the husband, lock the doors and do what I needed to do.

It happened this past weekend, when a huge Interstate construction project on the western side of Houston punched an hour or more delay into my night drive. Once I finally crawled out of the eastern side of the city, I could barely function, so I grabbed an hour of sleep in a random Wal-Mart parking lot next to a couple of long-haul trucks and a fine collection of shopping carts. That nap kept me alert during the next hour of bombing through pitch-black flat rice fields and not much else between Houston and Beaumont.

I sometimes arrive to my destinations later than planned, but I arrive alive.

How do you handle it when you feel sleepy on a road trip? Give us a shout down in the comments.

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