How to improve sleep when you’re on the road

We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, no matter what job you do, but this is even more important when you are a truck driver. When you are faced with the need to sleep in your cab, you need to learn some important techniques to make sure you are able to get your head down and get not only the right number of hours sleep but also good quality sleep to make sure you are fully refreshed and ready to hit the road again.

Sadly, the majority of HGV accidents occur as a result of a loss of concentration, or even drowsiness in the driver. This is often because of a lack of sleep, so making sure that you get the rest that you need is important for you and every other road user. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

To explain further, Andrea Easton, Head of Finance and Operations at FleetEx takes a look at what you need to do to get that all important sleep when you are far from home.

Safety first

You probably don’t believe in monsters hiding under the bed or in the wardrobe anymore, but we all remember those days of lying in bed feeling afraid that something is coming to get you. Many truck drivers still experience this sensation, but now it is a much more real threat that they fear.

By making sure that you are parked up in a safe place, you can sleep much more easily, free from the fear of threats from outside. Look for specific truck stops, preferably with security options, or places that allow you to be visible and amongst other people.

Find some peace

We all need peace and quiet to be able to sleep well, so choosing a place to park up that offers this can really help. However, this isn’t always possible, so you need to find a way to shut out the surrounding noise.

Foam ear plugs can be one solution as they allow you to sleep comfortably without disturbance, but make sure your alarm is loud enough to wake you up.  Alternatively, you could try playing gentle music, whale sounds or white noise to help you focus on something different and drift off peacefully.

Get comfortable

It sounds logical but making sure you are comfortable is a certain way to get a good sleep. There is nothing worse than tossing and turning through the night because of lumps and bumps or hard surfaces.

Whatever the size of your bunk, there are ways to make it more comfortable, through good mattress toppers, supportive pillows and as many blankets as you need to keep you comfortable. You could also invest in warmer sheets or even a sleeping bag to make sure you stay cosy.

In the summer, you are more likely to suffer from the opposite problem, so ensure that you surround yourself with lighter, breathable fabrics and have a portable fan handy so you can keep temperatures down.

Surrounding yourself with home comforts can also help in making you feel more relaxed. This might include a few cushions, family photos or even your favourite teddy bear (we promise we won’t tell anyone).

Go dark

Your shift patterns might mean that you don’t always get to sleep at the darkest times of the day, or you might find yourself parked beneath a megawatt streetlamp in the dead of night.

The light can be a huge distraction that stops you from getting to sleep, or it can be something that wakes you before you are ready, so it is important to make sure that it is thoroughly blocked out. Blackout curtains and sunshades for your windscreen will help to keep light out of your cab, but if this is not possible, then an eye mask can do the same job.

Bedtime routines

What you do before you go to bed is just as important as what you do when you get there. It is important to establish a sensible bedtime routine in order to get to sleep quickly and easily. One key way to do this is to avoid stimulants such as coffee or sugar before bed. Ideally, you will want to avoid caffeine for at least six hours before you want to go to sleep to prevent yourself from being kept awake all night.

Another issue with going to bed is the blue light that is emitted by screens. It is tempting to think that scrolling through your phone will relax you, but in truth, it actually keeps your brain active. Putting screens away altogether is the best solution, but if you are not able to do this, then try using the blue light filter on your phone, which changes what your phone emits.

Nap off

A nap halfway through the day might seem like a good way to recharge the batteries, but it can work against you when you want to go to bed, as this will throw off your circadian rhythm and interfere with your sleep.

It is important to stress that if you are feeling tired whilst driving, you should always take a break and have a nap to keep you safe but do your best to limit this to 30-45 minutes to give you the rest that your body needs without affecting your sleep later.

Meaningful sleep is just as important as getting a full 8 hours. This means periods of deep and uninterrupted sleep that allows your body to rest fully. This is vitally important to keep you healthy, but also to keep you safe on the roads.

It is important to remember that if you ever feel sleepy whilst driving, you should pull over immediately and rest until it is safe for you to continue with your journey. Establishing a good and comfortable space in which to sleep, and sticking to a sensible bedtime routine will ensure that you are more likely to get the sleep that you both want and need whilst out on the road.