Getting good sleep is not easy, especially in the transportation industry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that transportation workers have some of the highest rates of short or poor quality sleep. This is the result of irregular sleep schedules, the truck movement (for those that drive team), driving at night, or outside noise in rest areas.
It is important to sleep 7-9 hours consistently so that the body can regenerate properly. Not getting enough sleep puts you at risk of:
Weight gain and obesity
Heart disease and high blood pressure
Weaker immune system
We know that as a driver, it is hard to have a set sleep schedule, but there are many things you can do to get high quality sleep. Here are seven things that can help you sleep better, recover your sleep schedule, and feel well rested:
Have a Light Dinner
Digestion takes a lot of energy. If you eat a big meal before going to sleep, your body will focus on digesting that meal, instead of resting. Breakfast or lunch should be your heavy meal, and have a light dinner, like a protein shake or Greek yoghurt with fruit.
Only Drink Caffeine in the Morning
Many drivers drink a lot of caffeine to stay alert, but this can result in staying awake when it is time to sleep. It is recommended to choose drinks that are naturally caffeinated like coffee and brewed tea. Avoid caffeine from sodas, energy drinks, and canned tea—these have excessive amounts of caffeine and many harmful ingredients. It is also recommended to have your caffeine early on during the day, so that it doesn’t affect your sleep. For most adults 400 mg of caffeine is safe; this is about 4 cups of brewed coffee. However, if you have pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, you should limit your caffeine intake.
The artificial light from screens (TV, phone, tablet) interferes with melatonin production, which is the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. This is why it is best to avoid screens 30 minutes before going to sleep, especially if you sleep less than 7 hours. Instead of watching videos or TV, focus on activities that help you relax and wind down, which our next point.
Give Yourself Time to Wind Down
It is important to help transition the body from being active to rest mode. Take some time to take care of your body: stretch, meditate, or read. Avoid things like exercise, talking to someone that stresses you out, or being exposed to a screen. In the last 30 minutes of your day do an activity that helps your body relax.
Meditation helps reduce stress, increase melatonin production, decrease blood pressure and can help reduce insomnia. There are many different types of meditation, it’s just about finding the one that works for you. An easy want to meditate is with a guided meditation, where someone guides you through each step of the meditation, you can find many of these online. If you prefer to meditate on your own, this is what you can do for 5-minutes before going to sleep:
- Lie down in a quiet place.
- Close your eyes. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Focus you attention on your breathing. If your mind drifts to other thoughts, just bring it back and focus on your breath again.
This takes practice, so do not be frustrated if you have trouble focusing only on your breath. Practice every day and you will feel the benefits.
Stretching can help relax the muscles to sleep better, improve mobility, increase flexibility, improve posture, and help prevent back pain—as a driver, all of these can benefit you. Check out this stretching video from Coach Sergio, from Rolling Strong:
Take a Melatonin Supplement
Melatonin is a hormone that our brain produces when it is time to sleep. Stress, light, and even age affects melatonin production. A simple solution is taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is non-addictive and it helps you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling well rested. Taking a melatonin supplement can really benefit you if you drive at night, your sleep schedule changes often, or if you feel tired all the time. Take a melatonin supplement 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep.
Wear an Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
This is something that I would recommend even if you think you sleep well. When you wear an eye mask, you block out all the light and this helps the body produce melatonin. Many drivers complain about their sleep being interrupted by noise in rest areas. Wearing earplugs will minimize the noise and will help you sleep longer.
As always, I am here to help! If you want to improve your health, join Rolling Strong, the MVT wellness program designed for drivers. MVT pays for your membership, so the program is free. For more information reach out to me: email@example.com.