As an over-the-road driver, you’re used to long hauls. Sometimes you get to see new places, other days it’s the same old scenery. Either way, sometimes it can be tough to stay alert while driving a big rig for multiple hours per day.
Driving tired can be dangerous for you and others with whom you’re sharing the road. In fact, drowsy driving claimed 795 lives in 2017. Similarly, 91,000 police-reported crashes that year involved drowsy drivers. However, there are some simple steps you can take to stay more alert and still get to your destination on time – and, more importantly, safely.
Don’t Shirk on Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep tonight and those 65 and over aim for seven to eight. Drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as those who get seven or more. Plus, sleepiness can decrease your situational awareness and slow your reaction time.
It’s important to try to get as much sleep a possible before you start out on the road each shift. Part of that entails keeping a regular sleep schedule. Another part includes avoiding the use of electronics before you go to bed. Multiple studies have found that the blue light from screens often hampers an individual’s ability to sleep restfully. Most guidelines recommend turning your screen off at least one hour before you go to bed.
Nab a Nap
Even if you get the recommended amount of sleep, you might still be tired. If that’s the case, try taking a 20-minute nap to re-energize before you start driving for the day or if you feel groggy during your shift. If you’re yawning a lot, have trouble keeping your eyes open or weaving across lanes, your body is telling you to rest. Your safety is paramount, as is that of the drivers around you.
Fill Up with Healthful Foods
Going through a drive-thru is a quick and easy meal option, but fast food typically doesn’t provide your body with a lot of essential nutrients. Try to avoid foods with lots of sugar and high-caffeine drinks. Eating too many carbs can make you sleepy if you’re not already. Fruits and vegetables are almost always a good choice!
Opt for an Audio Book
Listening to music can be entertaining and sometimes soothing. Nevertheless, it doesn’t necessarily require you to actively listen. Audiobooks come in multiple formats and a variety of topics, so you can enjoy hearing a story by your favorite author or learn about a new subject. You may also want to consider listening to talk radio, which will probably keep you more engaged than music.
Hydrate with H2O
Not only is water good for you, it lacks caffeine. It also helps you avoid dehydration, which can increase your chance for fatigue. If you get tired of drinking plain old water but want the health benefits of it, try a caffeine-free flavoring powder or purchase a fruit infusion water bottle for a tropical twist.
Engage in Exercise
You don’t have to do 45 minutes of strenuous exercise to keep your energy level up. Just take a few minutes throughout your day of driving to combat fatigue. Even just taking a five-minute walk at lunch and stretching your legs at a truck stop later in your shift can help you ward off weariness.
Driving drowsy isn’t beneficial for you or your fellow drivers. If you can’t continue your shift without possibly harming others, pull over and get some rest. Your body will be glad you did.
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