How to Combat Fatigue and other sleep issues as a commercial driver
Sleep Tips for Commercial Drivers
If you are a commercial driver or you know one, it’s important to educate yourself about drowsy driving, what helps mitigate it, and what makes it worse.
1. Get Enough Sleep Before You Drive
If you know you won’t get a lot of sleep while you’re working, make sure you get sleep before you go. Honor the 34-hour waiting period between driving sessions and get as much sleep as you can during it. Try to give yourself the freedom to sleep whenever you are tired, even if that is in the middle of the day. Your body is not on a great schedule so you need to honor its needs, whenever they arise.
2. Take a Nap When You’re Tired
If you do get tired while you’re driving, pull over and take a nap. This can be hard when you’re on someone else’s schedule, but it’s better to stop and rest than get into an accident. Your ideal nap is at least 45 minutes. If you can, try to take your nap before you feel drowsy. It will be more effective at making you feel rested. Remember, even a short nap leaves you feeling more awake than caffeine does.
3. Don’t Drive at Night
Most people are naturally drowsy from 12-6 AM and 2-4 PM. If you can, avoid driving during these times. Use these hours for your breaks as best you can, so you don’t end up driving when your body really doesn’t want to be doing anything. Sure, those nighttime hours are also the hours when your road is the most open, but an open road is not worth an accident.
4. Avoid Medications that Make You Sleepy
Sure, you don’t want to drive while under the influence of sleeping pills, but there are a lot of other medications out there that can make you sleepy. Most of them are labeled as such, so you can check the packaging to make absolutely sure. In general, be wary of allergy medications, cold medicines, and medication for anxiety or depression. If in doubt, test the medication before you try to drive under its influence.
5. Pay Attention to Nutrition
It can be hard to eat well when all of your meals come from gas stations or fast food, but your body will thank you for it by being more awake and aware when you need it most. Try to eat regularly and include healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in each meal. Don’t get too hungry, because that will only add to your fatigue. And don’t eat large, greasy meals before you try to sleep, as they can make it harder to get good rest.
6. Know What Drowsy Driving Looks and Feels Like
If you start yawning, you need to pull over. Similarly, if your vision starts to blur or you feel like you can’t keep your eyes open, it’s time to stop driving for a while. You may have some different symptoms that pop up when you’re getting tired. Know yourself and your body, and stop diving at the first sign of sleepiness.
7. Remember: You Can’t Trick Yourself Into Staying Awake
A lot of drivers have their “go to” tricks that they claim will keep them awake when they’re tired. However, things like turning up the music, rolling down the window, blasting the air conditioner, and even drinking caffeine have not been shown to be useful in helping drivers stay awake. These may work for a minute or two, but once your body adjusts it gets sleepy again. When you’re tired, the only solution is rest.
8. Use an Alert System
Maven Machines offers a bluetooth headset that tracks driver fatigue and notifies them in real time when they’re getting tired and need to pull over. Over time, the headset will even track biorhythms, to help drivers plan their sleep and stops ahead of time. In the moment, it tracks head movements associated with sleepiness and lets a driver know when he needs to pull over. This takes the subjectiveness out of it and helps drivers know when they need to stop.
Driver fatigue will probably always be an issue for truckers and other commercial drivers. The key is to manage it well, so it doesn’t get the better of you. After all, no one wants to cause a major accident!