We all know sleep is important for our bodies to function correctly. Without it, we can lack energy and fail to do our jobs to the best of our ability. For professional truck drivers—in particular—quality, restful sleep is critical. Are you getting enough?
Our bodies have a built-in, 24-hour clock that is reflected in our mood, body temperature, motivation and performance. Our circadian rhythm tells us when we’re hungry, when we’re energetic and, most importantly, when we need to go to sleep.
There are two times of the day when our built-in clock is telling us to we want to go to sleep:
1. The afternoon lull, which lasts from approximately 2 p.m. until approximately 5 p.m.
2. The other critical time is from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m.
When you don’t get the sleep your body needs, you will begin to experience micro sleeps. Micro sleeps occur as the result of cumulative fatigue. When you experience a micro sleep, you are in a daze. Your eyes will remain open and you will see what’s happening, but your brain will not process the information, which means you will not be able to react to hazards.
Only you can recognize your own early warning signs that fatigue is starting to set in. Do not wait until you experience micro sleeps. Once you begin to drift out of your lane or you can’t remember the last few miles you’ve driven, it’s past time to get off the road and get some sleep.
Here are some actions you can take to help avoid fatigue on the job:
1. Leave home early and well rested. Plan every trip. Plan so that you can stop for stretch breaks every two to three hours.
2. Plan your time off and breaks to get enough sleep. Avoid coming to work tired—you will only add to the fatigue and be at risk.
3. Take a nap when needed, especially during the critical times between 2 – 5 p.m. and 2 – 6 a.m. Limit your nap time to no more than 40 minutes. Limit your intake of caffeine. Caffeine, although a stimulant, is only a short-term fix if your body is not used to it.
4. Stay hydrated. Carry and consume plenty of water. Eat light before going to bed.
Remember, you are the Captain of the Ship. Make the right decision—don’t drive fatigued!