Sleep. It’s what keeps your body and mind healthy. A good night’s rest helps you feel alert, energized and ready to take on the day. While getting enough sleep helps you accomplish day-to-day tasks, snoozing offers several behind-the-scenes benefits for your health. Sleep strengthens your immune system and lowers your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Who doesn’t love to wake up refreshed? Unfortunately, many adults don’t get enough sleep. Consistent lack of sleep could have lasting impacts on your health, relationships and peace of mind.
How many hours of sleep should you get? Adults should aim for seven or more hours of sleep each night. Experts recommend getting between seven and nine hours of sleep.
For many drivers, getting a good night’s rest on the road is a challenge. As you know, a driver’s schedule doesn’t fit the traditional nine to five. A driver’s sleep schedule may have them sleeping at odd hours or during the day. Going to bed at the same time every night or even sleeping at night may not be an option.
Drowsy Driving is Dangerous
The sun is warm. Your eyelids are heavy. Your head is hard to hold up. You could take a nap right here. Drowsiness can sneak up on you, especially after driving for hours.
Getting sleep as a truck driver isn’t always easy, but rest is important for your safety and the safety of the motoring public. Sleep-deprived drivers have slower reaction times and foggy minds—putting them at greater risk of an accident.
When you drive while drowsy or extremely tired, there’s a chance you will briefly lose consciousness for four to five seconds at a time. These lapses are called “microsleeps,” and they occur so quickly you won’t notice them. A few seconds seems like no time at all, but it isn’t when you’re moving at high speeds. In four to five seconds, a vehicle traveling at 55 mph moves 100 yards.
Crashes involving drowsy drivers happen most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon. Often, crashes related to drowsiness take place on rural roads or highways.
Your Defense Against Drowsiness
- Get enough sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Not sleeping well or getting enough sleep causes drowsiness.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Alcoholic beverages make you drowsy. You should never drink before or while operating a tractor-trailer.
- Check prescriptions. Some medications cause drowsiness. Check your prescription bottles for symptoms or talk to your doctor.
- Get caffeinated. If caffeine affects your body, you can drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages for short bursts of energy. Though caffeine can help you feel alert in the moment, keep in mind that it is not a substitute for sleep and should not be treated as such.
- Take power naps. A 20-minute power nap can help restore your energy. If you feel drowsy, pull over in a safe place and take a quick nap. Set an alarm for 10 to 20 minutes.
Tips to Get Better Sleep in Your Cab
Most truck drivers sleep in sleeper cabs located behind the driver’s seat. Early schedules and cab confines pose unique challenges for drivers trying to get optimal sleep. Sleeping in a moving truck is even harder. You may experience sleeping while the truck is in motion if you drive as a team.
How can you get better sleep? Try some of these tips to aid your beauty sleep—your body will thank you.
How to Sleep in A Truck
- Choose a good place to park. Your sleeping environment is important and that includes parking your truck in a safe, quiet place. Drivers shouldn’t sleep on the side of the road. It’s a safety hazard that could result in a ticket. Instead, you should park at truck stops, travel centers and designated rest areas. Avoid parking by people hauling live animals—they might be noisy at night!
- Upgrade your sleeper truck mattress. You spend half of your life sleeping. You don’t want to feel like you’re sleeping on a board! Get a truck mattress that invites you to get great sleep. A comfortable mattress or mattress topper makes all the difference.
- Go big on bedding. Sleeping in a truck sleeper won’t be as comfortable as sleeping in your bedroom at home, but you can customize your space. A good place to start is by buying bedding and pillows that suit your style and comfort needs. Weighted comforters or blankets can help you relax and fall asleep.
- Install shades. It’s easier to fall asleep (and stay asleep) in a dark place. Sometimes, you will sleep during the day or park under a bright outdoor light. Shades or curtains block out light, so your body can wind down for sleep no matter how bright it is outside. If it’s still not dark enough, try wearing an eye mask.
- Block out any noise. Depending on when you’re trying to sleep, the world outside your cab could be noisy. Bring foam earplugs to block out exterior noises, or try using white noise. You can purchase a white noise machine or find an app that produces white noise.
- Silence your phone. Don’t let notifications from your phone or other devices wake you up! Keep your phone on silent and face down so no noise or light disturbs you. You can also use your phone’s “do not disturb” settings to block notifications while you sleep. If you still want to be available, just in case, you can set specific contacts as “emergency contacts.” Calls or messages from these contacts will come through no matter what.
- Stay off technology before bed. Technology stimulates your brain, keeping you engaged. Research has shown that using your computer or phone before bed interferes with sleep. Blue light from electronics suppresses the hormone melatonin, which makes you sleepy. Instead of getting online, you can read a magazine or journal.
- Have a bedtime routine. Give your body and mind a signal that it’s time to sleep by maintaining a bedtime routine. Your routine may include washing your face, putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth.
Sleep Apnea & Driving: Know the Signs
If you find that it’s consistently hard for you to stay alert, there may be a larger problem at play. Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing pauses while you sleep at night. These pauses can last up to 10 seconds and happen up to 400 times a night. While you won’t be aware it’s happening, these pauses affect your ability to feel rested from uninterrupted sleep.
As many as 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and it’s common in truck drivers. The University of Pennsylvania, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations found that 28 percent of truck drivers have sleep apnea. That’s almost one-third of drivers!
There are multiple types of sleep apnea, including obstructed and central sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the soft tissues in your throat relax during sleep, blocking your airway. When this happens, it takes 10 to 30 seconds for your brain to be alerted, and you briefly wake up. (You won’t know you’ve woken up.) This cycle repeats throughout the night. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is different. It occurs when your brain fails to tell your muscles to breathe during sleep.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Choking sensations
- Gasping while sleeping
- Headaches in the morning
- Daytime sleepiness
- Problems concentrating
Drivers who have undiagnosed sleep apnea may find it harder to stay awake and alert. They may feel very drowsy at times they shouldn’t. Sleep apnea symptoms increase your risk of an accident. Additionally, not getting restorative sleep is hard on the body. Sleep apnea increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension.
How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?
The only way to see if you have sleep apnea is to get tested. If you experience the symptoms above, talk to your DOT physician about your concerns. The DOT physician will refer you for a sleep study. After looking at the results of your study, the physician will let you know if you have sleep apnea and prescribe a treatment.
Sleep apnea testing is not required to become a truck driver. However, if your physician refers you for a sleep test, you must take it to continue with Prime Inc.
You can perform your sleep study at Cardinal Sleep, located within Prime’s Springfield, MO, terminal. Our board-certified sleep physicians give you your results within 24 hours. Prime Inc. associates may also go through another provider for their sleep study. Home sleep tests are not accepted.
Can I Still Drive with Sleep Apnea?
Does sleep apnea disqualify you from your CDL? Does it mean you have to stop driving?
Sleep apnea won’t end your career. You can still drive with sleep apnea if you follow your treatment.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A CPAP machine or mask keeps your airway open, so you keep breathing through the night. While using your CPAP, you will be able to get restorative sleep. Other treatments for sleep apnea include surgery, mandibular advancement devices and implants.
You must meet the medical requirements set by FMCSA to become a truck driver. FMCSA regulations don’t currently address sleep apnea, but they do address medical conditions that could interfere with someone’s ability to drive safely. Anyone with a condition that interferes with their driving is not considered medically qualified to drive.
Prime Inc. associates with sleep apnea must follow compliance to continue driving. Cardinal Sleep at Prime reports regular compliance. Drivers must use their CPAP machine for a minimum of four hours a night 70 percent of the time reported to Cardinal Sleep.
Reach out to Cardinal Sleep at 417-719-4267 or visit www.cardinalsleep.net for more information about sleep apnea.
Life on the road is an adventure. Though there are challenges, truck driving jobs are incredibly rewarding. Are you ready to become a driver? We help you get there.
Apply to Prime today. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or new to the industry, Prime Inc. has opportunities for you. Complete our online application to get started.
Have questions? Contact our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568.