Truck driving can be a rewarding career choice, but it can also be exhausting. If you have an over-the-road trucking job, you are especially familiar with how difficult it can be to stay awake and alert. Many drivers find themselves asking how to stay awake while driving.
This is a serious concern. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is involved in 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths each year. Read on to learn some of the best practices for how to stay awake when driving.
Get Enough Sleep
At first glance, this appears to be a no-brainer. However, many truck drivers struggle with insufficient sleep. The good news is that truck driver fatigue laws require that you be afforded breaks in order to get enough sleep. However, it is on you to be disciplined about getting to bed early enough for a full night.
It isn’t always easy to sleep in a truck cab, especially on a truck driver’s schedule. Here are some tips that make it easier to get a restful night of sleep:
- Practice a Nighttime Ritual: Do the same activities before bed every night. For example, you could read a book, listen to some music and run through your hygiene routine.
- Eat at the Right Time: A full stomach when going to bed can make you toss and turn. Of course, trying to fall asleep on an empty stomach is also difficult. Find the right balance for you.
- Change Your Pillow: The right pillow can make all the difference in the world for sleep. Find one that is comfortable for how you sleep.
- Use a Weighted Blanket: When used regularly, a weighted blanket may help restore your body to its natural circadian rhythm and promote quality sleep.
Additionally, take a nap when you need it. Even 15 to 20 minutes of sleep can help you get reenergized for the day. Some trucking experts suggest making a quick, pre-route nap into a routine practice.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
When you are thinking about how to stay awake while driving, diet is not likely to be the first thing to come to mind. You may be surprised by how much of an impact a healthy diet can have on how awake you feel.
The fast-food and truck stop snacks that are easy to grab while on the road may be convenient, but they are also making your groggy. Stock your truck with healthy snacks and protein-rich foods like these:
- Almonds and other nuts
- Protein bars
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
If you are stopping for a full meal, stay away from fried foods. Instead, choose a salad with lean protein such as chicken. Before you start a route, try to get a solid, healthy meal to kick things off right.
You may think that exercise will wear you out but, think again. Getting the blood flowing will make you feel more awake and alert.
Try to get regular exercise every day. Even something as simple as a walk will improve your overall wellbeing and make it easier to stay awake. For truck drivers regular exercise helps improve stamina, making long routes easier. As an added bonus, stretching your muscles with some exercise will help you feel more comfortable when driving. Try setting clear goals each day, and track your progress with an app or pedometer.
If you find yourself getting tired, try pulling over and jogging around a truck stop for a few minutes. This quick activity will help you wake up and stay alert.
Drink Coffee (But Not Too Much)
It is no secret that coffee is great when you want to stay awake. In fact, if you ask someone how to stay awake when driving, caffeine is likely to be the first answer. If you are feeling sleepy, grab a quick cup of coffee.
However, don’t overdo it. Try to limit yourself to 400mg of caffeine per day at most. This is about the equivalent of three and a half cups of coffee. Drinking too much caffeine will cause you to get dehydrated, which will make you feel more tired. Additionally, if you get too dependent on coffee, you will experience severe crashes when it wears off.
Drinking a cup of coffee slowly during the morning is the best way to give yourself lasting energy from caffeine. Additionally, avoid drinking too much close to bedtime. As mentioned above, getting a full night of rest is essential to staying alert.
Stay Mentally Active
Highway hypnosis is a serious problem for truck drivers. Keeping your mind engaged while driving will help you to stay more awake and alert. Try listing to audiobooks, podcasts or stimulating music. The former two are good ways to learn something new while you drive. Any audio content that keeps you focused and engaged will help keep you alert.
If you find yourself frequently zoning out while driving, these tips can help you stay more alert and aware, keeping you and other drivers safer while out on the road.