You never drive over the speed limit, never exceed your maximum hours of service, and you’ve never, ever started to doze off behind the wheel. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about sleep deprivation.
We hear a lot about jet lag from air travel, and even how the change to Daylight Savings Time can put a whack in our sleep schedules. But long-haul truckers are in a special category, having to deal with changing wake/sleep cycles as a matter of course.
Our natural, 24-hour sleep/wake cycle is called a circadian rhythm. This natural rhythm is easily disrupted with changes in the amount of daylight we experience, fatigue (obviously), irregular sleep habits and lack of regular exercise. Sound familiar?
But here’s the thing: Disrupting your natural sleep/wake patterns can have serious consequences. Plenty of studies have blamed sleep deprivation as contributing to 30-40% of all heavy truck crashes. Even a few hours’ change in your sleep schedule can affect your performance behind the wheel.
One of the more bizarre studies confirming this looked at 40 years of NFL game scores between East and West Coast teams. It found that West Coast teams had a competitive advantage in games that started after 8 pm Eastern. (Isn’t it amazing what scientists study?)
Often times you can’t control your driving schedule. It’s your job to get your freight to its destination on time. But here are some tips, courtesy of WebMD, to help you get quality sleep:
- Don't eat a heavy meal before you sleep.
- Don't drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol.
- If you have the time to nap during the day, keep it very brief – about 10 or 15 minutes.
- Stop driving about an hour before you go to sleep.
- Make sure your sleep environment is as comfortable as possible.
- Don't leave lights on at night. Use a small night-light instead.
A good night’s sleep not only gives you more energy, but it even affects your mood. So for all our sakes, try to keep good sleep habits!