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Tips for Staying Awake for Truck Drivers

Tips for Staying Awake for Truck Drivers

Call it what you want: zoning out, drifting off, highway hypnosis, or drowsy driving. No matter what you call the sensation, the effect is the same. Getting tired or sleepy while driving puts you and others on the road at huge risk.

Even if you never actually fall asleep, driving while drowsy increases your reaction time and makes you less aware of your surroundings. If you are new to truck driving or trying to adjust to longer routes, there are several tips for staying awake while driving.

Power Nap

Before getting on the road for the day, lay down for a 20-minute power nap. These naps are short enough that you wake up alert and ready to drive, but long enough to fill up your energy tank and help you fight off sleepiness. Follow up with a brisk 10-minute walk to wake your body up, get some fresh air, and feel refreshed for your drive. Taking one or two naps during the day can also give you the boost you need to get through your drive.

Fill Up on Healthy Food

We all do it—on a long drive, we fill up on coffee, energy drinks, soda, candy, and fast food. All of these things might wake you up for a little bit, but in the long haul, they are not the best way to stay awake while driving. Junk food can wreck your digestive system, making you feel nauseous and unable to drive. It also makes you feel sluggish, setting you up for sleepiness when your sugar or caffeine rush wears off.

Before you hit the road for the day, eat a meal with plenty of protein, vegetables, and fiber. The vitamins and minerals found in healthy food, such as magnesium and B12, naturally stave off sleepiness. As an added benefit, relying on healthy food instead of junk food can minimize sleep disturbances, letting you get more out of each night of sleep.

Take Breaks as Needed

You may plow through your daily drive, taking as few breaks as you can to finish your drive. If you are getting tired on your drives, however, skipping breaks can have disastrous effects. Adding a few short breaks throughout the day won’t significantly change the amount of time you spend driving, but it can help you get through your drive with fewer tired spells and more energy. Just stopping to use the restroom or take a short walk can do a lot to wake you up.

Listen to Something Interesting

Listening to music is a great idea if it helps you stay alert, but too often music actually makes it easy to zone out and settle into relaxation. Instead of music, try listening to something that requires you to actively listen and stay engaged.

Public radio is a popular choice if you are interested in current events, or audiobooks can help you catch up on your reading list (The Trucker’s Report, 2016). If you have a smartphone, you can use it to play podcasts through your radio system and learn about anything that keeps your attention.

Dial Down the Heat

If you like to keep your truck at a warm, comfortable temperature, you may be lulling yourself into sleep. One of the best tips for learning how to stay awake on the road is turning down the heat. The warmth of the truck makes it easy for your body to relax and drift off into sleep. If you turn the heat down just to the point where you feel mildly uncomfortable, you won’t be able to relax enough to fall asleep.

Get a Full Night of Sleep

Lots of people ask “How do truck drivers stay awake?” without thinking about the fact that many truck drivers drive during all hours. Whether you get your miles in during daytime hours or nighttime hours, make it a priority to get eight solid hours of sleep before you start each shift. When you finish driving, it is tempting to stay up, talk to loved ones back home, and do something fun before getting ready for another day of work. But if you are running on a constant sleep deficit, your body will naturally try to get sleep wherever it can, and that includes on the road.

As you approach the second half of your drive, make a conscious decision to stay away from caffeine, acidic foods, and other items that may make it difficult for you to fall asleep at the end of the drive. When you lay down, make sure that no extra light is filtering in and keeping you awake. Avoid using electronics, since the light from their screens can make your body think it’s time to get and stay awake. Following the same sleep routine and schedule every night really reduces on-the-road drowsiness.

Everyone wants to drive safely while on the road, but it can be difficult to break the habit of sleepy driving. Use these tips for a more alert drive.