Catching Zzzs on the Road: How to Sleep Soundly Away from Home
For those who spend extended amounts of time on the road, a vehicle usually becomes a second home. This is especially true for truck drivers, who may even be lucky enough to have household amenities – such as a microwave or mini fridge – in their cab. But when it comes to sleeping, getting a good rest can be a challenge – even with many of the comforts of home. With long hours, stressful working conditions, and tight schedules, it can be hard to make the transition from Go go go! to Zzz when you’ve got limited time to decompress. Add to that the fact that the most common sleep inhibitors – changing light, sounds, movement/vibration, uncomfortable or unusual atmosphere, stress, changes in diet – are all around you, and you’ve got a recipe for sleeplessness.
Luckily, there are a number of tricks you can use to make it easier to fall asleep – and stay asleep – when you’re on the road. So how do you plan your downtime to make the most of your R&R?
- Reduce unnecessary light
Since our bodies are hardwired to wake up with the sun, do everything you can to make your sleeping space as dark as possible – pull the curtains shut in your cab or use a sun shade, wear a sleep mask, turn off your cell phone or at least put it face down and out of reach, and turn off any other electronics (television, radio, etc.) – especially those with flashing lights. If you want to keep a clock or your cell phone handy, put it behind your head and/or facing away from you so that the light won’t draw your attention.
- Reduce sounds
In order to reduce interruptions, park as far as possible away from other vehicles and the highway; try to avoid places where others are likely to disturb you at night. To further block out sounds that might wake you, use good-quality ear plugs or consider using a white-noise or other sleep-aid device.
- Reduce movement
Similar to sound and light, unexpected movement can jolt you out of your slumber and shorten your sleep. To reduce the chances of being awoken by outside movement, try to park in places where your vehicle is less likely to be affected by sway (e.g., in parking lots and rest areas, which are both stiller and safer than the paved shoulder of the road). When it’s windy, parking close to other trucks can help shield you from loud gusts.
- Increase your comfort
If you can, set the temperature and humidity in your vehicle to comfortable levels (using a dehumidifier and/or space heater may be helpful here – just be sure to exercise caution for your own safety). If the mattress in your cab is uncomfortable, investing in a mattress topper or memory foam pad may be well worth the cost. Full bedding also goes a long way in improving comfort; save the sleeping bag for camping trips – to most people it’s too inadequate for comfort.
- Focus on your health
Sleeplessness can often be the result of health issues, or change in diet or lifestyle. Staying healthy is an important step in making sure that your body is functioning properly — because nothing makes it harder to relax than an illness. To maintain peak performance: eat healthily, exercise, and avoid regular use of sleep aids and/or caffeine to regulate your waking and sleep. When possible, sleep during the night to work with your body’s natural rhythm (and to allow it to work for you). Get advice from a health professional if you have recurring sleep issues. Sleep apnea is common among truck drivers, and without medical assistance or treatment it can easily become a very serious health risk.
Sleeping in a new or different environment may take some getting used to, but with some simple adjustments you can make your home away from home every bit as soothing as the real thing – and the great rest you get there will be the perfect foundation for the busy road ahead.