As a trucker, you work long hours and sleep where you park. Establishing a steady sleeping routine can be next to impossible on the road. Many truckers don’t make sleep a priority, but it’s important to do so.
Did you know that driver fatigue is the most common cause of trucking accidents in the United States? Approximately 13% of truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue. For your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road, it’s important that you get a good rest.
But truck driver sleeping habits are difficult to manage. Luckily, we’re here to help. In this helpful article, we’ll discuss why sleep is so important, truck driver sleep requirements, and tips for healthy sleep habits.
Why Regular Sleep Is Important for Truck Drivers
Sleep is essential for your body. While you sleep, the neurons and neuron connections in your brain rest and repair, strengthening them and preparing them to receive new information. These connections let you process memories and form new ones.
Sleep deprivation causes forgetfulness and lack of focus because your neurons don’t have the chance to rest. This has a negative effect on your problem-solving skills and your ability to make quick decisions. As a truck driver, you know how important these skills are, and sleep is key in determining if you are able to drive your truck safely and work efficiently.
Sleep is also important for physical and mental health. Trucking is a stressful job, and stress is a huge problem for many truckers. Sleep actually reduces stress, and when your brain is functioning properly after a good night’s rest, you can manage your job stress better and recover more quickly.
Finally, a common health issue affecting many truckers is obesity. Trucking can be quite sedentary, and it’s hard for truckers to manage their weight. A 2015 study found significant connections between sleep and high blood sugar. Cutting your amount of REM sleep in half can more than double your blood sugar rates, putting you at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
But sleep isn’t just necessary for our bodies. Rest and sleep are required by law for truckers in the United States.
Truck Driver Sleep Requirements
The federal and state governments have several requirements for truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lays out federal standards.
Property-carrying drivers can drive up for up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for 8 hours without interruption. They can switch off with another driver, or they can pull over and rest.
Drivers can extend their 11-hour driving limit for a maximum of two hours when they encounter adverse conditions. This means weather conditions that may cause a route to take longer than planned. But you must use your discretion and only do this when absolutely necessary. If driving in adverse weather conditions, use caution and drive well below the speed limit.
Drivers are also capped at 70 hours of driving per week. They can only resume driving when they have rested for 34 or more hours.
In California, there has been a recent pushback by teamsters to maintain strict meal and rest break laws for all truckers and appeal court rulings that exempted drivers operating in California from rest break laws. A teamster member from Sysco stated:
“California’s meal and rest break laws protect drivers like me from drowsy driving and injury and keep our roads safe.”
While there are no regulations on how many actual hours of sleep you as a trucker need, sleep should be a priority during your rest time.
How Do Long-Haul Truck Drivers Avoid Falling Asleep?
A medical study revealed that long-haul truck drivers got an average of 5.18 hours of sleep per night. That’s nowhere near enough! Healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. While it’s OK to get less once in a while, consistently getting less than seven hours will result in the health and mental health issues we discussed earlier.
You can use many strategies to stay awake, but it’s important to make healthy choices and prioritize your sleep. For example, a sleep poll study revealed that 19% of truckers use coffee more than five times a week to stay awake.
While coffee is a good fast-acting solution if you need to keep driving, what’s important is making sure you get quality sleep on your off time. These five tips can help you get to sleep and stay asleep, so you make the most out of your valuable off time.
Know the Best Places to Sleep
As a trucker, the first thing you need to do to get a good sleep is know the best places to sleep. If you’re parking at a truck stop or rest area, find a quiet spot away from traffic, loading, and live animals. Never sleep parked on a ramp, if possible. It can be a loud place, and it’s not considered a safe place to park your truck.
It’s always a good idea to plan your route ahead of time. Have a plan for where you’re going to park and sleep each night, so you don’t waste time looking for a spot. This can also help you avoid stress after a long day of driving, which will make it easier to fall asleep once you get parked.
Block Out Light and Noise
When you sleep in your truck, there can be a lot of distractions. At night, lights from passing vehicles and the rest stop you are parked at can make their way into your truck and keep you awake. And if your off time is during the day, sunlight can be a huge problem.
Noise can also be a big problem, especially if there are many other truckers around you. Blocking out light and noise can help you get significantly better rest. Invest in earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, whatever you are most comfortable sleeping in. Some truckers like to use a white noise machine to block out sound and help them relax.
Always close the curtains in your truck when you’re going to sleep to block out as much light as possible. An eye mask is a good idea as well, especially if you tend to sleep during the day.
Establish A Bedtime Routine
As a trucker, you probably don’t have a regular sleep schedule. One day you might go to bed at 9 pm, and the next day at 3 am. Because of this, it can be difficult to fall asleep during your time off.
Establishing a set bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to go to bed. This can be having a cup of tea, taking a shower and brushing your teeth, listening to music, or reading a book. Start your routine at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Give yourself time to wind down and relax before you get into bed.
Whatever you choose, set a bedtime routine and go through the same routine before you try to go to sleep. As you develop this habit, your body will start to clue in, and you’ll begin to fall asleep more easily.
Steer Clear of Electronics
About 60 minutes before you go to bed, stop using your phone, laptop, or TV. Electronic devices emit blue light, a type of light that has been proven to delay our production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. Your electronics can make it harder for your body to fall asleep.
So, to avoid this put them away and read or listen to music in the hour before you go to bed. This can be difficult on the road if you want to say goodnight to loved ones. But there are some great tech tools you can use to stay in touch with friends and family without having to look at your phone.
Make Your Bed Comfortable
Trying to sleep on a small mattress in a cramped truck can be uncomfortable. It’s a good idea to invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding.
Find a pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position, so you get a good rest and avoid any back pain. A weighted blanket provides some people with a sense of comfort.
And if it makes you feel more relaxed, it’s a good idea to decorate your sleeper cab. Put up pictures, add candles, or soft lighting. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and helps you get better rest.
The Best Truck Driver Sleeping Tips
Stay safe on the road by making sure you get a good night’s rest. Our tips for healthy sleep can help you get a solid sleep even with an irregular schedule.
After a good night’s sleep, every trucker needs a great truck repair shop they can count on. At Kelly’s Truck, we have over 50 years of experience serving truckers in our community.
Kelly’s Truck does all repairs in-house, so you can get back on the road as soon as possible. We offer a large range of services, from small maintenance to large-scale repairs. And Kelly’s Truck has roadside assistance, so you can count on us even if you break down on the road.