by Pride Transport | Mar 07, 2023
It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to ensure peak performance on the road is by doing absolutely nothing at all.
That’s right: One of your most important responsibilities as a truck driver is to get enough rest to safely operate your vehicle and perform all of your daily tasks. In fact, taking time to rest is so crucial that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates regular breaks, limits the amount of consecutive hours truck drivers can be behind the wheel each day, and even has a sleeper berth provision!
Any job can be difficult when you’re tired, but driving a massive vehicle while drowsy? Well, that’s just irresponsible. Getting a good night’s sleep as a truck driver not only helps you stay more alert while operating your big rig, but it also provides a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. If maintaining a consistent sleep schedule isn’t already a priority for you, it’s time to rethink your habits.
Why Sleep Is Important
One in three adult Americans isn’t getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation (also known as “insufficient sleep”) not only causes drowsiness, irritability, and a general lack of energy, but it can also lead to poor decision-making, slowed thinking, a reduced attention span, and compromised memory.
Almost 40% of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. If you spend your career driving a truck, you can’t afford to face any of the consequences of this level of sleepiness. Falling asleep at the wheel is riskier than falling asleep at a desk job because you could end up causing a major accident. Your lack of sleep could end up affecting more than just you.
The awareness that sleep and safety are directly related certainly isn’t new. Truck drivers have been studied by sleep researchers for decades now. Just look at this study from the 90s that observed how fatigue affected the safety of drivers. And Congress began requesting that the Federal Highway Administration consider limiting driving times for commercial truckers way back in 1988! Many sleep-related safety precautions have been implemented since then, and for good reason.
In addition to affecting your mental alertness, how much sleep you get can determine your physical health. Lack of sleep can cause diabetes, weight gain, immunodeficiency, and hormone imbalances — all of which can prevent you from staying behind the wheel for years to come.
Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success
Truck drivers must do so much multitasking on a daily basis, it can be hard to settle down when it’s finally time for bed. Adopting a comfortable nighttime routine and fixing up your space to fit your sleep needs can help ensure a good night’s sleep.
If you have a sleeper cab, make sure you have comfortable bedding additions like mattress toppers, comfortable pillows, and linens you like. If you tend to get cold at night, your chilly feet might like a heating pad. If you get hot in the night, consider investing in a portable fan.
Blackout window shades or weighted face masks, and earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, can help make it easier to fall asleep no matter where you’re parked. (Bonus tip: A white noise machine might be a good purchase for light sleepers). Giving yourself an environment where it’s easy to relax can make your rest periods all the more productive.
Once you make it to your bed and it’s time to wind down, try to remove any distractions that might come your way. If you want to use your phone or electronic devices in bed, turn on Night Shift or Dark Mode to reduce blue light, or wear a pair of blue light filtering glasses every evening.
For a screen-free way to chill out, do something relaxing for your brain, like reading or doing a puzzle under a dim light. Focusing on just one thing after a busy day on the job can help cue your brain and body that it’s rest time, not task time. Spending a moment to stretch or just focus on breathing deeply can be just the thing your body needs to understand it’s time to catch some Zs.
Making a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Getting enough sleep is certainly easier said than done. But getting enough sleep consistently can feel like a daunting task for some. There are a few habits you might consider adopting for strong sleep hygiene.
Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it every night. A consistent sleep routine can be an anchor in your schedule, even when your job is inconsistent.
Choose a wake up time and stick to it every morning. A consistent wake up schedule can keep your body in sync.
Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. You can even make a point of letting your friends and family know what your sleep schedule is so they don’t text or call and interrupt your sleep (unless it’s an emergency, of course).
Better yet, ditch your phone altogether. If you know that your phone is a major distraction when you should be sleeping, consider leaving it elsewhere in the truck after a certain time every night. Try setting an old school alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, instead.
Get outside every day. Physical activity and exposure to sunlight can help your biological clock reset, which influences your hormones and digestion, and in turn, your energy levels.
Take naps. We knew you’d like this tip! One simple way of combating sleepiness is to sleep, of course! Naps as brief as 15-20 minutes can help you stay alert during the day and sleep better at night — win-win!
To get consistent sleep, you need to try to get consistent sleep. The more regular you can make your evenings and mornings, the more regular your sleep can be.
Sleep is something every person must do every day, and it’s all the more important for truck drivers to get enough. If you’re looking for a company that considers schedules that fit your desired lifestyle and always puts your safety first, look no further than Pride. We’re hiring now — check out our job openings.