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Truckers Improve Safety and Health by Getting Enough Sleep

May 17, 2016

Woman truck driver leaning out the drivers side window.

Driving a truck is hard work, particularly on the human body. The common bond between coping with inconsistent schedules, noisy lots and everything that goes with living in a truck is sleep. Not just any sleep, but good, plentiful, restful sleep.

Getting enough high-quality sleep can be the difference between the split second of reaction time needed to avoid a crash or fighting off the variety of colds and other bugs just waiting to invade a compromised immune system.

The unpredictability of load schedules can translate into equally strange sleeping schedules. Drivers who create a bedtime routine to counteract the challenges of this lifestyle experience better health and generally safer driving records.

What Constitutes a Sleep Disorder?

Many drivers are at higher risk for sleep-related issues simply because they do not realize they have a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea and insomnia are more common than most people realize.

Making some tweaks to bedtime habits can minimize symptoms. See if any of these sound familiar:

  • Consistently needing more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • Waking up several times for long periods
  • Taking frequent naps
  • Feeling sleepy often, especially at inappropriate times

Create a Good Sleeping Environment

This can be easier said than done in a truck, but the payoff of enjoying a good rest is worth the extra effort.

  • Block out as much noise as possible, using earplugs or a white noise machine (something as simple as a fan will do) to minimize distractions.
  • Keep your cab or bunk area cool.
  • Darken your sleep environment with shades, curtains, or even wear an eye mask.
  • Park in a level spot.
  • Invest in a comfortable pillow.

What to do Before Bedtime

Preparing your body and mind for sleep is step one to falling asleep quickly and avoiding the frustration that comes with tossing and turning.

  • Tell your family, friends and dispatcher when you plan to sleep so they will know not to disturb you.
  • Tell your brain it’s time to gear down by taking care of activities of daily living such as brushing your teeth, washing your face and changing clothes.
  • Any exercise you can squeeze in that does not impact sleep time will improve your ability to fall asleep.
  • Consider using a guided meditation audio to guide you through the process of turning off your brain.

What NOT to do Before Bedtime

Just as important as what to do is what to avoid in getting ready to sleep. Help your brain and body slow down by avoiding:

  • Nicotine and other stimulants such as caffeine for several hours before bedtime
  • Light from devices such as phones and other mobile devices, as well as exterior light from the sun or streetlights
  • Heavy meals shortly before bedtime
  • Liquids, especially alcohol, that might cause sleep disturbances and a need to go to the restroom

For more information about effective sleep hygiene, please call Beth Keller, business liaison, at 573-331-3959.

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