Falling asleep while driving is never a good thing. It is even less good when you are driving an 80,000 lb. rig. Unfortunately, many drivers suffer from sleep deprivation leading to fatigue and putting them at risk for falling asleep at the wheel.
One major risk for drivers having a lack of sleep is experiencing micro-sleep. Micro-sleep is a temporary episode of sleep that may last anywhere from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds. A fraction of a second while rolling down the highway at 65 MPH is all it takes to end up in a collision or rollover accident.
Even a small accident can cost you a lot in repairs, lost freight, and hiked up insurance rates. More than that it could cost you, or someone else on the road, your life.
As a driver, it is important to do everything you can to get good, healthy sleep and stay sharp on the road. So what can you do to take control of your sleep habits?
The soft blue glow from a cell phone, tablet, or even digital clock on your bedside table can hurt your sleep in a few ways:
- Suppressing melatonin
- The soft blue light from electronic devices can slow or even halt the production of melatonin in your brain. Melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
- Keeping your brain alert
- It may seem harmless to climb into bed and spend some time “winding down” watching Netflix or catching up on Facebook. Unfortunately, this may actually have the opposite effect of winding down. Watching an exciting movie or show or seeing a negative post or email make it hard to wind down at all let alone settle into slumber.
- They wake you up
- Sleeping with your electronic device nearby can also disturb your slumber with notifications from late night texts, emails, calendar notifications, etc. Those who often wake in the night to roll or use the restroom may swipe their phone on to give a quick check and end up staying awake longer by getting into an email or social media post and then find it is difficult to settle back down to resume sleeping.
Block your clock
Do you often glance at your clock throughout the night? This practice can make your mind race with thoughts of the day to come and keep you awake. Covering your clock can block the light and prevent you from inadvertently checking the time throughout the night.
Utilize good sleeping posture
A pillow between the legs can help align your hips and reduce stress on your lower back.
Get the right pillow for you.
Make sure your pillow supports your head and neck to keep your spine in a neutral position. You want a pillow that can support the natural curve of your neck when you are lying on your back or keep your nose aligned with the center of your body if you sleep on your side.
Good sleeping posture will also help you when you are awake by reducing stiffness and pain in your neck and back.
Follow a strict sleep/wake time routine. Going to bed and waking at the same time every night/day will help set your body’s clock. Sticking to this schedule every day, even on the weekends, will turn into a healthy habit and over time you will be able to nod off quickly and rest soundly.
Track your sleep
Automatic Sleep tracking with wearable technology such as the Fitbit, Jawbone, or other devices can help you become a more consistent sleeper. By tracking your sleep you can learn about your sleep habits. Many of these devices also allow you to set a schedule and get reminders when it’s time to shut things down and hit the hay. They can also use automatic alarms that wake you when you are sleeping the lightest near your designated wake time allowing you to feel the most refreshed.
Avoid exercise tOo close to bed time
Working out is great and can even help you sleep better. But doing so right before bed can create a burst of energy that will keep you awake. Be sure to plan your workout to finish at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
Following some or all of these tips will help you begin sleeping better and feeling more rested during the day. But remember, it takes time to overcome the bad habits we’ve developed so be patient and take it one night at a time as you train your body to a new schedule.
Sleep well and stay healthy!