Truck drivers get the privilege of being able to drive through many interesting places and get to meet new people all across country. What many people do not realize, is that driving can sometimes start to feel monotonous, even to professional drivers. If a truck driver is sleepy or fatigued, their workweek may feel like it lasts a lot longer than it should. Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road and thus, a lot of time in the bunk of their truck. While hours of service regulations are required to give you adequate hours to sleep, falling and staying asleep in a semi-truck is not easy. Aside from obvious safety issues, inadequate sleep and fatigue can cause many other issues for a driver, including, but not limited to the following:
- Decreased motivation
- Moodiness and aggression
- Slower information processing
- Short term memory issues
- Slow reaction time
- Impaired vision
- Weakened judgement
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths. Obviously, drivers need to work on getting adequate sleep and strive to avoid these issues at all cost. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are some ways drivers can work on improving their sleep and manage their fatigue.
Limit Exposure to Light
One of the first things a driver can do when going to the bunk to sleep is to limit his or her exposure to light. If possible, try to eliminate all artificial light in the truck. Close the curtains to block out all light coming in from the outside. Do not watch television or use your phone for at least a half hour before you go to sleep. Read a book instead. Wear a sleep mask to cover your eyes at night. Do anything you can to sleep in blackness.
To help reduce as much sound or noise as possible from coming into your truck from the outside, try to park as far away from other trucks as you can. Make sure you are still in a safe and secure location. Sounds such as trucks rolling past, the pulling of air brakes when a driver has parked nearby, and a reefer unit that is not yours can keep you from getting the proper rest you need. Earplugs are a cheap investment for blocking out sound while you sleep. Most phones allow you to set them to ring only when specific contacts call. Another option is buying a noise machine that plays soothing music, nature sounds or white noise.
Make Your Bed Comfortable
Having a comfortable pillow and mattress is essential. Consider purchasing a mattress topper if you do not feel like buying a new mattress. If you have a mattress that feels lumpy or uncomfortable, a mattress topper is often an appropriate purchase. Mattress toppers are getting more high tech with memory foam, cooling, and heating features, and varying sizes of thickness. There are even latex options available too. Make sure you have the proper blankets and sheets to adjust to the temperature inside your truck. You do not want to be in the middle of winter with only a sheet to cover you while you sleep!
Take Power Naps
It can be advantageous to take a 15-minute power nap throughout your shift. A quick nap will give you enough energy to keep going, but not too much sleep to make you more tired than before your nap.
The main advantages of getting good restorative sleep are for the sake of your health and safety on the job. Follow some of the techniques listed above and you will be well on your way to be a well-rested commercial driver.