How Do Truck Drivers Stay Awake and Fit?
The lifestyles of most long-distance truck drivers might work as barriers when it comes to maintaining healthy behaviors. While fitness is often a concern, lack of sleep is also a problem for many. Fortunately, staying fit as a truck driver might be simpler than you think, provided you’re willing to put in some effort. Besides, you can also follow a few simple truck driver tricks to stay awake.
How Do Truck Drivers Stay Fit?
Results of a study found at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) website indicate that long-distance truck drivers smoke more, have higher cholesterol levels, and have a higher prevalence of diabetes when compared to the average population in the U.S. It comes as no surprise, then, that they need to pay due attention to their health. If you’re wondering how to stay fit as a truck driver, know that much revolves around eating healthy and exercising.
For starters, make sure you eat at least three meals every day. Skipping meals tends to result in binge eating, and once you put on extra weight, getting rid of it is not easy. While most truck stops now offer healthy eating options, you might be better off packing your own food. Stock healthy ingredients and snacks in the fridge. Fresh fruits and nuts serve as great snacks. Make sure you eat enough vegetables too.
Exercise for truck drivers is crucial when it comes to staying fit and maintaining good health. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), three out of four long-haul truck drivers it surveyed did not exercise for the recommended time period. One out of four men, and one out of five women drivers, exercised five days a week, half an hour per day.
While the typical working conditions of long-distance truck drivers are not the most conducive to exercising, you can still find ways to surmount this challenge.
Some truck stops now have gyms, which you may use to good effect. If there’s a trail or a park around you, use it to run for some time. When you’re not working, consider taking long walks. Carrying a foldable bicycle gives you the means to explore local areas in your off-hours even as you get some exercise. You may even consider carrying some basic equipment like a resistance band, a rebounder, a kettlebell, and dumbbells as well.
How Truck Drivers Stay Awake
While you might have heard of stay-awake pills for truck drivers, it’s best that you steer clear of them, irrespective of whether they come in the form of prescription or illicit drugs. This is because they might do more harm than good, and following a few simple tips tends to produce desired results.
Get a Fresh Start
Sleep plays a crucial role in how our body functions. Dr. Eric J. Olson, MD, on the Mayo Clinic website, recommends that adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per day. While it’s important for truck drivers to start fresh after getting adequate sleep, they should ideally maintain consistent sleep schedules as well. If you plan to drive a long distance without getting adequate rest in between, bear in mind that it can be a recipe for disaster. In addition, while naps are great when taking short breaks, they cannot replace a good night’s sleep.
Plan in Advance
Planning your trips in advance is crucial if you’re a long-haul truck driver. Before you set out, map your trip and ensure that you take enough stops to get rest and sleep. You may use online truck stop location maps to find suitable places to stop. If you’re unsure about getting parking or feel it might be difficult to find, consider calling ahead of time to reserve a spot. You can ask other truck drivers if they know of rest areas that offer free parking along your route.
Eat Frequently and Keep it Light
A study that looked at the effect of dietary patterns on sleepiness in short-haul truck drivers indicates that those who followed prudent patterns benefitted from low sleepiness. There’s no reason to believe that the effect would be any different on long-haul drivers. While you might feel that having large meals can help you avoid making multiple stops, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with lethargy and sleepiness.
Eating at least three meals per day is the bare minimum you should go with, and it’s even better if you can break your everyday eating into four or five smaller meals. Doing this helps you stay more alert, and it also has a positive effect on your metabolism
While staying hydrated helps in more ways than one, it also has an effect on keeping you awake and alert. Some easy ways to remain hydrated as a truck driver include:
- Carry adequate water and keep sipping on it regularly.
- Steer clear of sugary and carbonated beverages.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables with high water content.
- Wear breathable and lightweight clothing when it’s hot.
- If you take medications, determine if any causes dehydration as a side effect.
- If you perspire heavily, turn to electrolyte-rich beverages and foods.
Engage Your Auditory Senses
Driving for long hours along straight roads with minimal traffic can test even the best truck drivers, because monotony has an effect on wakefulness. Given the widespread use of mobile technology, you may choose to listen to just about anything from music to podcasts to audiobooks, as this helps keep your mind engaged.
After a point, you may consider switching off whatever you’re listening to because your brain continues processing each sound that comes its way, and it can get exhausting. Then, simply listening to the hum of the engine, possibly with your windows rolled down, can have a calming yet uplifting effect.
Know Your Medications
If you’re on any medication, find out if drowsiness is a side effect of any. This is because such medications can not only make you drowsy when you’re driving, they can also make it harder for you to concentrate. To check if any medication comes with drowsiness as a side effect, go through the literature that comes with it or ask your doctor or pharmacist. If you’re on any such medication, consider asking your doctor for an alternative.
Keep Scanning the Surrounds
One of the benefits of being a defensive driver is that you remain focused and engaged. Ideally, you should keep moving your eyes around and scan the surrounding every couple of seconds. Checking all your mirrors in a patterned movement every three to five seconds is ideal, unless you’re in a situation where you need to look at them more often.
The Caffeine Conundrum
When it comes to caffeine intake for truck drivers, the general opinion is that you should avoid it when you’re on the road. This is because it serves as a short-term fix. Besides, using caffeine to replace sleep is never a good idea when you’re driving for extended hours.
However, some long-distance truck drivers look at caffeine as a life-saver, often to serve as a late-afternoon boost. This is because the effects of caffeine typically wear off in four to six hours, by which time they’re off the road. Then, there’s also the case of the “coffee nap”. According to studies, caffeine intake before a short nap helps improve mental acuity and alertness.
However, if you like your caffeine, it’s important to not go overboard. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), healthy adults can avoid negative effects if they limit their intake to no more than 400 milligrams per day, which is around four to five cups of coffee. It’s important to note, though, that some medical conditions and medications might increase your sensitivity to the effects of caffeine.
Given the time long-haul truck drivers spend behind the wheel, it’s important for them to remain fit, awake, and well aware of their surroundings. Eating right, getting enough exercise, and sleeping well help in promoting overall fitness. When it comes to staying awake, you also need to pay attention to remaining hydrated, scanning your surroundings, engaging your senses, and limiting your caffeine intake.
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