It seems like everyone these days could use more restful sleep, but at the same time, not everyone has to maintain alertness while driving for hours every day. For truck drivers, good sleep quality is even more important. Unfortunately, the demands of the job often mean that getting optimal sleep is very difficult – without a few adjustments, that is. By implementing some practical tips, it’s actually possible to get great sleep night after night, no matter where you happen to be.
Some of the tips are easy, like unwinding by listening to music, or catching up on Truck Driver News. Others take some discipline, like avoiding caffeine for at least six hours before going to bed. However, the payoff is worth the price. Unless some medical condition is getting in the way of great sleep, the tips below should come in handy for pretty much any truck driver.
Avoid sleeping during the day
If you get to choose during which times of day or night you’re on the road, it would be far better for your sleep schedule if you didn’t sleep during the day. For one thing, having sunlight streaming into the cabin of the truck will definitely interfere with sleep quality – not to mention all the noise of normal daily activities going on around you. For another, the body’s circadian rhythm is programmed to slow your body down at night, and speed things up during the day. When this rhythm is disrupted, there can be all kinds of negative health effects. At the very least, you’ll constantly feel drowsy when you’re driving because your body isn’t getting sleep at the right time.
Create the right environment for sleep
The average truck driver spends hours of the day focusing on staying alert. There are also all kinds of details to look after, such as reaching destinations on time, or navigating risky driving conditions. This can cause a fair amount of stress throughout the day, which can interfere with sleep quality if you don’t give yourself the chance to unwind. Even though a truck driver’s bunk isn’t necessarily the most restful place to sleep in, there are still quite a few strategies that promote relaxation and deep sleep.
- Cut out stimulants (like coffee) six hours or more before you’ll be hitting the hay. This gives your body the chance to eliminate them before you need to go to sleep.
- Make sure you have the right comforter for the season. If you’re too hot or too cold, you’ll have a hard time going to sleep (or staying that way).
- If you have access to one, take a hot shower to relax your nerves and muscles.
- Make sure your sleeping area is totally dark. You can easily do this by installing curtains; you can even put adhesive Velcro on the edges so they’ll seal around the border of each window. Why is this important? Your body perceives darkness as a signal to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. This promotes deep sleep that lasts all night long.
- If possible, stick to roughly the same bedtime each night. This helps with steadier melatonin production, since your body knows to expect sleep at a certain time of night.
- Establish a nighttime sleep routine, which is another way to signal your brain that it’s time to ramp up melatonin production. This could include all kinds of things: stretching, reading, listening to a podcast, etc. If you find it relaxing and enjoyable, it would work as part of a sleep routine.
- Try not to eat directly before going to bed. This stimulates the digestive system, which signals the brain that it isn’t time to produce melatonin yet. Ideally, you should eat your last meal at least three or four hours before going to bed. If you want a snack after that time window, try to keep it pretty light.
- Avoid exercising or stressful activities directly before going to sleep. Both of these things will cause the stress hormone cortisol to increase, which tells your body not to produce melatonin.
- Limit screen time for at least 30 minutes before going to bed. The blue light from electronic screens “tricks” your brain into thinking it’s daytime, which can make it harder to fall into deep sleep.
Reduce disruptive noises
Even though there isn’t much you can do about external noises, you can do something about the amount of noise that interrupts your sleep. The most obvious strategy is using noise-reducing headphones or earplugs, but some people find them annoying. Another strategy is to play white noise, nature sounds, or some other soothing audio track to help you sleep. This can do a lot to mitigate the amount of noise that makes it into the sleeping space, resulting in a more restful night’s sleep.
Get the right mattress and pillow
There are all kinds of external factors that could interfere with sleep quality, but what about the ones that you can take care of yourself? Choosing the right mattress, pillow, and even insulation pad could make all the difference. Memory foam mattresses are popular choices, since they provide support as well as cushion. If you spend a lot of time in hotter areas, a moisture-wicking mattress and pillow could be lifesavers. If you’re in colder climates a lot, an insulation pad placed under the mattress can help you stay warm.
Don’t drive until you’re exhausted
Most people are used to pushing through tiredness until they get a second wind, but this is just the body producing more stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) to get them through the ordeal. This is dangerous for truck drivers, since it results in slower reaction times while driving. By the time you need to sleep, you’ll be so wired that it’s nearly impossible. If your schedule allows it, don’t try to push past feelings of exhaustion; instead, pay attention to your body’s cues.
Getting good-quality sleep as a truck driver is tough, but far from impossible. By following some basic strategies, you can enjoy waking up feeling refreshed and ready for another day behind the wheel.