Truck drivers have long days and erratic sleep schedules. Some are also getting paid based on how much work they get done, whether it be by the mile, by the hour, or a percentage of what the load pays. Staying awake and alert for long shifts is critical if you want to be a safe, productive driver. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself awake and alert when time demands it.
Avoid High Contrast Lights At Night
The stark contrast between the bright lights and pitch black will make your eyes feel sleepy all too quickly. You have the bright headlights and dashboard lights in your face but you’re sitting in a dark truck surrounded by the dark of night. That will wear you out quickly. Driving with soft red lights lighting your interior and turning your dash lights down will help in the long run. Also make sure you never look directly at headlights, only to the side..
Keep Your Emotions In Check
Maybe you had a fight with your dispatcher or a car just cut you off a little while ago. Whatever it is, you’re ticked off now and all of that frustration is going to wear you out. Let it go. The same thing goes for excitement. If you start singing at the top of your lungs because you were assigned a great load you’re going to be pulling into a rest area before long to catch a nap. Try to keep your emotions level.
Don’t Allow Yourself To Get Too Exhausted
If you keep pushing on when you’re already tired you know you’re doing something incredibly dangerous: you need sleep. When you start feeling tired try to fit in a quick nap or go to bed early. The more exhausted you are when you finally get sleep the less alert you’re going to feel when you get up.
Turn The Temperature Down
Nobody says, “I love the winter because I sleep better when I’m freezing cold.” Absolutely not! We sleep best when warm and cozy. While it’s nice turning up the cabin heat to warm up in the winter, it also makes you comfortable and a little sleepy. By keeping the temperature down in the cab to the point where it is a little chilly and borderline freezing, you’ll be just a little more alert.
Turn Off The Radios
Your CB radio, music, and talk shows can be entertaining, but also exhausting. Your mind is processing every sound it hears. The more stimulation your brain has to process, the faster you’re going to get worn out. Drive along for a while enjoying the soft hum of the engine and wheels going down the highway. You’ll feel more calm and relaxed.
Turn Your Radio Back On!
However, after a while the quiet will put you to sleep. The hum of the engine and tires can be relaxing, but maybe it’s putting you in a trance. Crank up some tunes, the CB radio, or a talk show for a short period of time and wake yourself upa little.
Avoid Large Doses Of Caffeine
Sip on coffee if you like but watch out for caffeine overload. Once you start mixing diverse stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks, you’re both putting yourself at risk health-wise while setting your body up to have a caffeine crash. Make sure not to go overboard on the coffee and energy drinks!
Avoid Large Portions Of Food
We’ve all experienced a Thanksgiving where you look around 30 minutes after the meal and half of your family and friends are asleep or getting there. A full belly makes us sleepy since your body has to work to digest that food. Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones. You’ll feel better for it.
Get Something To Eat!
In the right amounts at the opportune time, a snack or mini meal can provide a great energy boost. Overdo it and you’ll be pulling off for a nap. Remember that the body responds well to small meals with small snacks in between.
Take A Walk
You’d be amazed at how much of a difference a ten minute walk around a truck stop or rest area can make. Getting out frequently if not a huge hassle can be beneficial to your health and quality of work.
Take A Nap
If taking a walk doesn’t really appeal to you, then how about a thirty minute nap? It’s amazing how much of a difference a short nap can make. One or two daily short naps can really keep you awake and alert for much longer. Now would be a good point to say: there is no substitute for sleep. These are simply ways to keep your energy levels up and give yourself a helpful boost when you’re not feeling quite as sharp as you could be out there on the road.