Prepare to Sleep Well
When you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, there are small actions you can take to prepare for getting better quality sleep.
Why it matters
Sleep impacts every function in your body.
- Your body needs about 7-9 hours of quality sleep every 24 hours to function normally. During these hours, your body – quite literally – removes the physical and emotional rubbish that builds up during the day. Your body heals itself.
- Not removing the physical and emotional rubbish from your day puts your body into a stress state.
- Being in a stress state breaks down your body’s ability to function normally. You get tired.
- About 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every 24 hours is free health insurance! Quality sleep is medicine that keeps you well. It keeps you refreshed and safe to drive.
What should I do?
- Make sleep a priority – schedule it
- Drink caffeine only in the first half of your day
- Make naps part of your day – schedule it
- No alcohol close to sleep
- No large amounts of refined sugar or starch close to sleep
- No big meals close to sleep
- No vigorous exercise close to sleep
How should I do it?
Make sleep a priority – schedule it in your standard logbook, BFM, AFM or in your plan for your day off.
- Schedule time to be asleep (about 7 hours or more if you need it) plus time to get to sleep and wake up (about 30 minutes). Set a reminder in your phone.
Drink caffeine only in the first half of your day. Caffeine from drinks like coffee, tea, soft drinks or energy drinks, or from tablets like NoDoz stops your brain signals telling you to sleep.
- Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours after a cuppa. It builds up in your body when you have more than one drink or tablet.
- When you have caffeine in your body it is harder to get to sleep and when you do get to sleep, your body can’t get quality sleep. Over time, you get more and more tired.
- Leave enough time before sleep from the start of your day for caffeine to have worked its way out of your body.
Make naps part of your day – schedule it. Microsleeps give you increased alertness, better reaction times and clearer thinking. Microsleeps reduce your need for caffeine.
- Take a 5 or 10 minute nap in your cab while you’re waiting to load or unload.
- TIP: Plan to take microsleeps as “relaxation snacks“.
No alcohol close to sleep. When you first drink alcohol it makes you feel sleepy. But once you are alseep, alcohol in your body stops you getting deep sleep and stops your body healing itself.
- You might not remember them, but when alcohol is in your body your sleep is littered with small awakenings all through the time you are trying to sleep. Over time, you get more and more tired.
No large amounts of refined sugar or starch close to sleep. At first, refined sugar and starch make you feel sleepy. Once you are asleep, sugar and starch – if you eat them in large amounts – can interrupt your sleep and stop your body healing itself.
- TIP: Choose a piece of fruit rather than lollies, cake or biscuits if you want something sweet before sleep.
- Your body sleeps better when your stomach is not full.
No vigorous exercise close to sleep.
- Vigorous exercise within three hours of going to bed can push your body clock back and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Tips for night shift:
- Expose yourself to bright light in the evenings and during the night when working.
- Limit your light exposure in the morning after a shift and use blue-light blocking glasses to prevent sending your body a signal that it’s daytime.
- Exercising before a night shift tells your brain to be alert.
- Eating higher protein, lower carbohydrate meals like tuna salad can maintain alertness at night. Try eating a meal like this before you start working.
- Avoid alcohol when you’ve finished your shift. It will disrupt any sleep that you have during the day.
- Try to sleep as soon as you can in the morning after your shift. Don’t busy your mind with lists of things to do.
- Eat all your food within a 12-hour window. This helps set you up for a refreshing sleep in the day.
Sleep Apnoea is a concern for a lot of truck drivers:
- Sleep Apnoea is a physical condition where your breathing is interrupted as you sleep. It stops you getting enough quality sleep for the body to heal itself.
- You are at risk for sleep apnoea if:
- You snore loudly.
- You have repeated pauses in your breathing, you wake up coughing, or you wake up gasping for breath.
- Your neck circumference is larger than 43.18cm for males or 40.64cm for females.
- You have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or greater.
- If you are concerned or don’t know what your BMI is – talk to your doctor about your concerns.
- You can also get more information at Sleep Disorders Australia.