Six smart ways to fight sleep deprivation as a truck driver

Six smart ways to fight sleep deprivation as a truck driver

Truck driving is likely one of the most challenging jobs out there. There are many ever-changing external factors, and the driver itself is not excluded here.

For many newcomers, it’s quite a shock when their expectations are confronted with day-to-day driving reality. Irregular sleep time can be one of the harshest things a new driver will have to adapt to at the end of the day.

In a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2007, drowsy driving was a major factor in 13% of all accidents involving large, commercial vehicles. What it means is that the accident likely would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the fact that the driver was not rested enough.

Even though there is not much research done on that topic, one thing is sure; sleep deprivation can pose a significant threat not only to the driver, but everyone on the road. And that is only one of the consequences, not to mention mood swings or depression - if you are prone to it. 

With such a gloomy perspective on that, what can we actually do, as truck drivers, to deal with that? Well, the good news is that human beings are highly-adaptive creatures and you can learn how to deal with that problem. Here are some ways on how to do it:

1.Adjusting expectations to reality

That is something to start with. If you’re looking to be a professional long-haul truck driver, you just have to accept the fact that this job won’t very likely make it possible for you to have an 8-hour-sleep pattern. Rather, be ready to sleep very irregular hours and in different, unpredictable conditions for example, with a customer while waiting for the bills.

2. Napping

It takes some time to drive a couple of hundreds of miles per day without mental and physical stamina combined with experience. As long as there’s no harm to the client, it’s completely fine to take an hour or two to have a refreshing nap. This will let you charge your batteries and decrease the risk of causing an accident. 

3. Take care of what you eat

You are what you eat, and the sooner you understand it, the better for you. Do you love snacking on candies while drinking soda? Well, bear in mind that although they will give you a quick energy boost and cause your dopamine to spike up, there’s a price to pay. What comes after is a sudden and draining energy drop. Stick to healthier alternatives instead, such as whole grain unprocessed rye bread, lots of fruits and vegetables. The less processed, the better. Go with lemon water instead or if you need some stimulation, sweeten your coffee or a tea with a natural calorie-free sweetener like Stevia. This will keep your energy balance more sustainable without compounding effects of sleep deprivation.

Remember as well, that eating fast food or fatty foods, in general, will have the same effect as your body needs a lot of energy to digest them. With high probability bordering on certainty, eating right before sleeping will cause you counting sheep instead of sleeping properly.

4. Abstain from medicines that cause drowsiness

Taking sleeping pills is quite risky unless you know that you can sleep till the effects wear off. The problem arises when you have to wake up while the pill still works. In addition, there’s a bunch of medications that cause sleepiness as a side effect. Familiarize yourself with the leaflet from the package to make sure that is not the case. Most common examples would be allergy medications, anti-depressants, and some cold medicines.

5. Ask for sleep catch-up

If you work for a reputable company, you should be able to ask your dispatch to load you later and use this time to have some extra sleep hours. Safety should be an absolute priority for every trucking company. On top of not having your driving for more than 70 hours a week, they should also let you do it unless you don’t overuse it. With that said, if you feel incapable of driving week in and week out, you might consider changing your job. Otherwise, they may “change” you. 

6. Introduce technology 

Consider one of Bluetooth headsets available on the market to help you stay awake. It can sense your fatigue by monitoring your head movements and warn you that you should pull over and take a break. 

Conclusion

Trucking is a business where many things just cannot be pre-planned. It’s dynamic, unpredictable and definitely not for everyone. You have to be tough to do this job. Knowing your body and its limits are key to distinguish between what risk is acceptable and what would mess with your health and psyche. Because putting your health and safety at risk in this job does not only threaten you, but also other drivers on the road, as well as pedestrians. It’s a huge responsibility every truck driver bears on his shoulders. If you find yourself in a position where this job puts a huge strain on your health or mood, you should really consider switching to short-haul trucking or just move on with your career.