Long haul truckers spend weeks on the road, with long hours behind the wheel. The pressure to deliver a load on time, or pick up another one, can be enormous and often leads to truckers driving when they’re tired. Here are six tips that can help long haul truckers stay awake when they’d rather be sleeping.
Make sure the sleep you do get is good quality
Getting a good night’s (or day’s) sleep is one of the best ways to ensure you can stay awake later. Try parking in places that are quiet and safe, use blackout curtains to keep your sleeping cabin dark or use a sleep mask, insert ear plugs to block noise, and keep the cabin cool. Try to avoid spicy or heavy meals, a lot of liquids, caffeine or nicotine within 2-3 hours of when you anticipate sleeping, and turn off your communication devices so you can sleep undisturbed.
Eat sunflower seeds
A researcher at NHTSA studied drowsy driving and sponsored research to determine if a rumor that eating sunflower seeds while driving could stave off drowsiness. In his research, he compared the effects of sunflower seeds and an energy drink, and found the sunflower seeds were superior. The energy drink had a rebound effect, creating more drowsiness as its effects wore off, while the sunflower seeds had no such effects.
Eat healthy meals
Fast food is quick, easy, and oh, so tempting. Particularly when you’re under a time crunch, fast food seems like your best choice. But the fat and sugar in fast food will end up increasing your drowsiness. Instead, opt for a full stop and a healthy, balanced meal. For instances when you’re truly pressed for time and feel that you simply cannot stop for anything, consider having a mini-fridge in your truck with a variety of healthy options like fresh veggies and fruits and yogurts.
Crank up some sound
Turn up the music or, to truly capture your interest and wake you up, consider an audiobook. Singing along with music can help keep your brain energized, and staying engaged as you follow the plot of an audiobook can also keep you awake. It also may help you feel less lonely, if this is an issue for you.
You’re probably thinking, “That’ll just lead to more stops because I’ll have to use the bathroom!” It’s a fair complaint, but dehydration leads to fatigue. Staying well hydrated will keep you awake and alert. Avoid caffeine, however. While it will have the temporary effect of making you feel more alert, it will also have a rebound effect. When the effects of the caffeine wear off, you’ll feel more tired than you did before.
Crack the windows for some fresh air
Fresh air is a great way to counteract feeling tired. Particularly if your truck is nice and cozy warm inside and it’s cold outside, that slap of icy air can jolt your system and really wake you up. Even if there is not temperature difference, though, opening the windows can still help wake you up and refresh you. It’s important to realize, though, that the effects of this will only last for so long before you either get annoyed or it just stops working. This should really be just a temporary measure until you can pull over somewhere and either take a little catnap, or get a good night’s sleep.
Truck drivers make the world go round. You’re responsible for everything that appears on our dinner tables, in our showers, our cars, and everything else in our lives. That’s a heavy responsibility, with literally several tons of weight on the back of your truck. Making sure that you can stay wide awake when you’re piloting your truck is critical, for your own safety and that of everyone around you. Try these tips, on their own, and in combination, to find what works best for you to keep you awake. Always remember if you’re too tired, it’s far better to pull over and sleep than to risk an accident by continuing to drive. You know yourself best.