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Staying Awake While Truck Driving

Staying Awake While Truck Driving

According to recent statistics, more than 500,000 commercial trucks are involved in accidents each year, resulting in more than 100,000 people injured and 5,000 deaths, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  A top cause of commercial vehicle accidents is falling asleep while driving, which is particularly common in the early morning and late at night, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.


  1. Sleep for a full night. Most truck drivers sleep fewer than five hours each night and nap during the day for approximately a 1/2 hour, and most require at least seven hours of sleep to become fully rested. Most drivers could benefit from sleeping for at least a full seven hours each night.
  2. Drink healthy beverages to remain well-hydrated throughout the day. Soda contains caffeine, which is useful for staying awake, but the sugar it includes can spike energy and follow with a significant drop in mental alertness. Sugar-laden beverages can impair metabolism, blood glucose and kidney function, while water, green tea and soy or almond milk can bolster health, hydration and cognitive function.
  3. Eat foods that support healthy metabolism and alertness. Fruit, such as apples, bananas, pears and oranges; seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower; nuts, such as almonds, cashews and pistachios; and high-protein Greek yogurt, a bean burrito or jerky have nutrients that encourage the body’s systems to remain in balance, which promotes steady metabolism, a good night’s sleep and consistent wakefulness throughout the day.
  4. Stay socially connected. Make checking in with friends and family a priority and communicating with other commercial truck drivers or taking breaks at rest areas and other gathering places routinely to support a healthy attitude and avoid feelings of depression that can interfere with self-care.
  5. Follow the rules of the road and employment. If you make a mistake, take shortcuts or fear for job security, the resulting distractions will prevent you from performing well and concentrating optimally at work.
  6. Use music and audio recordings that stimulate happiness and mental activity. An iPod mix of favorite songs can help fill the hours of driving; a standup comedy routine can be a refreshing break from solitude; and an audiobook on a nonfiction subject of interest can help keep the mind active.
  7. Exercise is important for keeping the body’s systems healthy, including circulation. Preventing stagnancy from long-term driving can be difficult when a deadline can discourage taking breaks. Remember, however, that a long-term drive is more like a marathon than a sprint, and endurance is only a piece of the equation. The other skills required for success are the sometimes boring maintenance routines, such as exercise every two hours, to remain physically conditioned that brings the longer term rewards, such as meeting work demands, monetary earnings and even a promotion. Stop at a rest area and complete the following exercises:
  • Reach your hands overhead and follow with repetitions of toe touches
  • Spin your arms
  • Use portable weights to do bicep curls
  • Run or walk for five minutes

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