In my last blog, we talked about the different stages of sleep, their importance in our health, and the benefits of getting proper sleep. In this blog, I’d like to discuss the health risks associated with not getting enough sleep and some ways to improve your sleep.

The Risks

Lack of sleep, or poor quality of sleep, can lead to a myriad of health issues, some of them very severe. When we sleep, our body uses that time to repair itself physically and renew itself mentally. Lack of sleep does not allow the body to accomplish these things. Short-term effects can be: 

  • Constant Yawning
  • Tendency to doze off
  • Grogginess
  • Poor Concentration
  • Mood Changes
  • Inability to Handle Stress

These are mild and can go away with a good night's rest, or sometimes just a nap. The long-term effects are much more dangerous and could be deadly. These include:

  • Heart Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Stroke

As we sleep, the body uses “downtime” to rest and repair itself. Not getting enough sleep doesn’t allow the body to do these things, and the accumulating lack of repair can lead to chronic disease and a lower quality of life. But what can we do to get better rest? Well, I’m glad you’ve asked.

There are many things, but here are a few that can help with the truck driving lifestyle:

  • No caffeine or sugar before bed: It seems so simple, but how many times do we take a swig of our favorite soda or other caffeinated, sugary beverage before we hit the bunk? Try drinking water or some other non-sugary, non-carbonated beverage. Sugar and caffeine both raise heart rates, keeping our bodies from falling into a deeper sleep. It also doesn’t give the heart much time to relax as well.
     
  • No big meals 2 hours before bed: This is really tough with the OTR lifestyle, but eating and then going to bed keeps the body active in digesting and processing food. The longer it takes the body to do this, the longer it takes to fall into a deep sleep. Eat something light and keep the meal small.
     
  • Get rid of “blue” light: Blue light helps keep the brain active and alert. Blue light comes from TV screens, tablets, and PHONES! Reducing the exposure to blue light before bed will allow the brain to “wind down” a little before bed. Sleeping with a TV on may keep the brain active and not allow you to get proper rest. There are apps that you can download to reduce blue light from your phone. Many phones already have this built-in.
     
  • Make your space as dark and comfortable as possible 
     
  • Exercise: Let’s face it, exercise makes us tired. This allows us to fall asleep faster and deeper. A walk before bed can have a pretty big impact on your sleep quality.
     
  • A weighted blanket: A weighted blanket, surprisingly, works very well for many truck drivers I know. I don’t understand why, nor can I give any scientific reason, but as a weighted blanket user myself, I can tell you that it’s helped with my Fitbit that actually tracks my sleep stages and patterns.

I hope this information has been helpful. There is so much more than could be written. Getting proper sleep in this industry can be tough, but it’s important to get as much and as good of quality of sleep as possible for our mental and physical health.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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