What Is Highway Hypnosis?

highway hypnosis

Have you ever heard of the term “Highway Hypnosis”? Do you know what it is really? If not, then read this article to find out everything about highway hypnosis.

Remember the time when you were driving on a long stretch of highway and see a road sign saying 62 miles to your destination. The next thing you know, there are only 20 more miles to go. You do not remember anything that happened between those 42 miles, and you are sure you did not fall asleep or crash. 

This is an example of highway hypnosis, a phenomenon that causes you to go into a trance-like state while you drive. 

Keep reading below to learn what highway hypnosis is and what causes it. a

What is Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is a situation where we sometimes zone out while driving on the road and have no clear memory of what happened on the journey. The monotony of the long road slows down the brain and leaves you less alert, making your body function in autopilot mode.

What Highway Hypnosis Feels Like?

You didn’t realize that you are experiencing a hypnosis wheel until you snapped out of it.

These are some of the warning signs to notice:

  • Mental fogginess
  • Sleepiness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Wandering thoughts
  • Slow reaction time
  • Dazed and dull feeling
  • Heavy eyelids

What Causes Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis is very common in tired drivers; however fatigue is not the only cause:

Check out some of the possible reasons for highway hypnosis below:

Monotonous roads

According to recent research, monotony plays a huge impact in highway hypnosis. A study was done in 2003 on 56 professional male drivers to see the effect of road monotony. The participants were asked to drive on two different roads for 40 minutes. 

The roads were flat, but one had visual scenery with long pine trees standing on both sides of the road. The second road contained multiple visual elements like people, farms, trees, overpasses and fat bridges breaking up the scenery in different places. 

Researchers found that drivers who were on road one showed more signs of fatigue and large steering movements. The fatigue increased after 20 minutes of driving. This suggests it is not only about long drives but monotonous roads which make your brain dizzy.

Brain inattention

Another research in 2004 found that the oculomotor system that controls eye movements also plays a role in highway hypnosis. When you drive, you keep staring at an unchanging road for a long time. The brain starts to depend less on retinal messages and what it sees. Instead, it relies on the mental prediction of what you can see.

The brain switches to a less alert mode in simple words and starts paying attention to visual stimuli. 


When you are tired, the chances of experiencing highway hypnosis increase many folds. The monotony lowers your brain alertness, and so can fatigue. In any of these cases, the brain processes more slowly than usual and relies on mental predictability and autopilot mode instead. 

Some other factors are trees stretching and blurry white lines; both can combine together and cause drowsiness. Looking for long periods at such scenery can enter you into a trance state even when you are not feeling sleepy. 

How to handle Highway Hypnosis?

If you notice the warning signs of highway hypnosis, then try these tips to bring back your alertness. 

Take a break

The more time you spend on monotonous tasks, the more chances for autopilot mode in your brain increases. If you feel like you zone out of work, the worst that can happen is you will have to go through the documents again. However, when you are driving, you put yourself as well as others at risk. 

When you are driving long distances, make sure to stop every one or two hours. Get out of the car, move around to bring your mind back to an alert state. If you feel tired, you take a quick nap before starting again.

Have some caffeine

If you feel sleepy while driving, you can consume caffeine to boost your alertness. Taking sips of drink or munching on something helps to break the monotony of driving on the road. Make sure to not eat something very distracting or difficult to eat. 

Talk or sing

Talking to people helps in keeping the brain engaged. If you cannot use a hands-free device to call a friend, stop the car and call them for a few minutes. If you are aware of your long drive, make plans with your loved ones beforehand, so they are available to take your calls. You can even sing music loudly or talk to yourself about any thought in your mind. 

Make surrounding changes

These are some quick adjustments for when you feel highway hypnosis hitting and do not have time to stop. 

  • Put on upbeat and loud music. Avoid listening to music that puts you to sleep like soft melodies.
  • Roll down the car windows. Warm environments increase drowsiness; therefore, letting the wind come in through windows will hit your face sharp and keep you awake.
  • Keep monitoring your sleep to prevent highway hypnosis. Turn off the cruise control, so you have something important to concentrate on.
  • Keep your backseat upright when driving. Putting up a straightforward step will not only help you maintain good posture but also prevent you from slipping into a relaxed state.

How To Prevent Road Hypnosis?

These are some tips and tricks to prepare yourself for a long boring drive.

Try a new road

If you drive the same long road to work every day, then changing your route can help you prevent highway hypnosis. 

You can try:

  • Driving through the town instead of the highway
  • Get off at a new exit
  • Find alternative highway routes

Eat lightly

Remember how sleepy and drowsy you feel after a big lunch at work? Similarly, if you eat a heavy meal before your drive, you will most probably feel the same way. 

Instead, always try to eat a light meal before hitting the roads. Light protein keeps you feeling more alert instead of consuming fried and sugary foods. 

Make an all-new playlist.

Playing the radio does not necessarily keep you alert always. If you do not like the music or when the music is too slow or soft, there are chances that you may feel less engaged.

Next time you plan to go on a long drive, make a new playlist to replace your all-time favorite hits. Add music that you have never listened to before or new episodes of a podcast you enjoy. You can even download an audiobook that you have been planning to read since forever.

When you pay attention to new content, you stay more alert than when listening to the same music.

Get enough sleep

Highway hypnosis is common when you are already tired. Before you start your long journey, make sure to get good sleep to minimize the chances of zoning out.

Also, check the label of medications you take to make sure they do not cause sleepiness. If they do, try to discontinue them while driving after consulting with your doctor.

Also, driving at night increases the chances of highway hypnosis, making you fall asleep behind the wheel. This is why you should drive slower at night or not at all.

The bottom line

While you might be awake and the mind is operating on autopilot, highway hypnosis can still make your mind less alert. Feeling drowsy on a boring road is pretty common; however, you can lower your chances of highway hypnosis behind the wheel by following some simple tricks like listening to new podcasts, songs, and taking a new route, etc.

We hope we were able to quench your curiosity about highway hypnosis. If you like this post, do not forget to leave a comment below.


Hey There! I am A Makeup Artist turned into a Content writer. Intrigued by the world of digital marketing, I am currently working as an SEO Content Writer. Being a fashion enthusiast I enjoy writing blogs on Beauty, Fashion and Fitness Trends.