Coffee and travel: coffee’s role in increasing alertness and beating travel fatigue

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During the summer months many Europeans travel to holiday destinations. From combatting driver fatigue, to countering the effects of jet lag, the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee explores how coffee consumption can impact a holiday maker’s experience.

This summer, European roads will be filled with eager tourists making their way to holiday destinations. As much as the journey can form an exciting part of the overall trip, the tiredness and fatigue associated with long car journeys should not be underestimated. Managing travel-related fatigue is vital to a safe journey as it is a major factor in road accidents, impairing a person’s ability to brake or swerve effectively to avoid or reduce an impact1.

Coffee helps combat driver fatigue due to the caffeine effect. Research has shown that moderate consumption of caffeinated coffee is associated with increased alertness and concentration2 and together with taking sensible breaks, coffee can help combat fatigue caused by long distance driving3,4.

Did you know…?

  • Drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee (80mg caffeine) has been shown to improve driving performance and reduce sleepiness during monotonous highway driving5
  • Taking a break from driving can also help, and the combination of a strong cup of coffee (150 – 200mg caffeine) and a short nap (less than 15 minutes) has been shown to help combat driver fatigue3,4
  • Fatigue during night time driving is also common and research has shown that drinking one strong cup of coffee (125ml containing 200mg caffeine) is as effective as taking a 30 minute nap in reducing driving impairment at night without altering subsequent sleep6
  • Another study found caffeinated coffee consumption significantly improved the performance of night driving in both young and middle-aged drivers, suggesting that aging does not reduce the effectiveness of caffeine7
  • While existing road safety guidelines remain a priority, the results from these studies suggest that simply drinking caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, during short breaks from driving could be a useful adjunct strategy in the maintenance of alertness while driving long distances

Jet lag is often experienced after a long haul flight across different time zones and can cause extreme sleepiness or wakefulness at inappropriate hours. To counter jet lag, it helps to adjust to the new time zone quickly – sleeping, waking and eating at times appropriate to that area. Coffee consumption is associated with increased alertness and may help to manage feelings of sleepiness in those who experience jet lag.

Did you know..?

  • A review of the research suggests that caffeine may be effective at improving performance in those who are suffering from jet lag8. However, for those taking short stopovers of 1-2 days in a different time zone, adapting to the local clock may not the best strategy
  • Sensible naps, combined with a moderate intake of caffeine during times of appropriate wakefulness and short-term use of sleeping aids, appear to be the most effective ways to maintain alertness and sleep in these situations9
  • Drinking coffee during a flight can help to counter the effects of dehydration commonly experienced whilst flying as coffee does not lead to dehydration and actually contributes to daily fluid intake10

Find out more by reading ISIC’s Coffee and Travel: Fact or Fiction article.



  1. Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (2011) ‘Driver Fatigue and Road Accidents Factsheet’ Available at:
  2. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies. (2011) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal, 9:2054
  3. Horne J.A. and Reyner L.A. (1996) Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo. Psychophysiology, 33(3):306-9
  4. Reyner L.A. and Horne J.A. (1997) Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: combination of caffeine with a short nap. Psychophysiology, 34:721
  5. Mets M.A.J. et al. (2012) Effects of coffee on driving performance during prolonged simulated highway driving. Psychopharmacology, 222(2): 337–342
  6. Philip P. et al. (2006) The effects of coffee and napping on nighttime highway driving: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med, 144:785
  7. Sagaspe P. et al. (2007) Aging and Nocturnal Driving: Better with a Coffee or a Nap? A Randomized Study. SLEEP, 30:1808
  8. Ker K. et al. (2010) Caffeine for the prevention of injuries and errors in shift workers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, (5):CD008508
  9. Arendt J. (2009) Managing jet lag: Some of the problems and possible new solutions. Sleep Med Rev, 13:249-56
  10. Maughan R.J. et al. (2003). Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. Hum Nutr Diet, 16:411-42

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