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Insomnia: How to Get Some Zzzz’s in the Rig

Author: David Ray


Falling asleep on the road can be tricky. After a full day of riding the roads, maneuvering through big city traffic, and handling your rig, your mind is too geared up to let you sleep. However, according to the Hours of Service rule, you have a set block of time in which you can rest and recharge. Find that sweet spot of sleep that will keep your mind sharp and body in peak performance with these tips for battling insomnia.

A Dividing Line between Work and Leisure

As an over the road truck driver you are working, eating, entertaining yourself, and sleeping in your rig.  This can make it a challenge when it comes time to retire for the end of the workday. In order to transform your sleeper berth into a place that welcomes a good night sleep—at any time of day—take these tips to bed:

  • Keep it clean by only relaxing and sleeping in your sleeper; no eating here to avoid the irritation of bed crumbs or food scents.

  • Add an egg crate and/or mattress pad to your existing mattress to bulk it up for comfort.

  • Purchase seasonal bedding. In the spring and summer, opt for a lightweight bedspread and cotton sheets, while flannel sheets and quilts are great for fall and winter.

  • Take extra sets of sheets and change your sheets weekly, unless you can wash them that often. Note that 70 percent of the dust in homes comes from dead skin cells, a favorite food for dust mites. You can imagine how this is magnified in the enclosed space of a sleeper.

  • Get a new pillow every six months. This cuts down on dust mites, allergens, germs and bacteria in your bedding, and a new pillow will provide much more support to help you catch those zzzz’s.

  • Decorate the place by pinning up photos or artwork, i.e. your family members, tropical islands, mountain vistas or inspirational quotes.



Alternative Remedies

Taking sleeping pills isn’t a solution for over the road truckers. However, there are some non-prescription solutions you can try if counting sheep is keeping you awake:

  • Melatonin is an all-natural sleep aid and hormone your body produces. The Mayo Clinic provides an extensive list of dosage recommendations.

  • Aromatherapy involves smelling of certain essential oils in order to relax or encourage sleepiness. Go for the real deal by purchasing straight essential oils. Top choices for sleep are lavender, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, marjoram and oil blends specified for relaxation.

Why Truckers Can’t Sleep

Truck drivers are apt to experience chronic sleep disturbances if they are overweight, obese, are generally unhealthy, and suffer from sleep apnea. However, if you are in good health, you too could suffer from sleep disturbances. Hours of Service regulations state drivers must go off-duty for a set number of hours within a time frame of operating a commercial truck. Drivers take their off-duty time at odd hours, such as 10 hours off from 3 pm to 2 am, during which they have to eat, shower, complete log books, relax and sleep. This affects their natural circadian rhythm, aka sleep cycle.

The natural circadian rhythm as noted by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences is responsible for:

  • Body temperatures

  • Bodily functions

  • Sleep-wake cycles

  • Hormone release

When out of synch due to a disruption of a person’s natural circadian rhythm, a person can experience sleep disturbances including insomnia, as well as:

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Obesity

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  • Diabetes

  • Depression

The key to preventing these mental health issues is to make sure you get enough quality sleep by following the advice regarding your sleeping quarters and alternative methods to catching your zzzz’s.

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