After the first 10-20 miles, life on the road can get a little boring. The white noise of the truck and the same scenery over and over again can contribute to road fatigue. Then, you decide to grab something to help you stay awake and sure enough, a truck stop will have lots of sugary, energy-filled drinks that promise to keep you alert on the road. The problem here is that these quick fixes will make you even more tired than when you started and pose a risk to your health.
So what should you do? You have a long haul drive and need to stay awake for the duration. Experienced long haul drivers have developed a variety of methods to stay alert, including these 10 below:
1) Keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeine. Yes, you will have to make more frequent pit stops to use the bathroom but you can’t let yourself become dehydrated either. Being dehydrated causes you to be more lethargic and tired on the road and if you decide to combat it with coffee, not only will it wear off shortly, but it’s a diuretic and will cause you to become dehydrated faster which just turns into a vicious cycle.
2) Take a quick nap before hitting the road. There have been studies that show even if you sleep for less than an hour, your body will receive the important rest it needs to help you stay awake through the night. If needed, pull over and take a 20-minute long power nap while en-route as well. The point is, don’t try to fight your fatigue to save time – you may end up hurting yourself or others.
3) Eat a healthy meal after your nap. Of course, fast food may be more convenient; but the fat, salt and sugar are going to make you groggy fast. Good energy food includes protein and complex carbohydrates which give you more stamina while driving on the road. Eat 100% whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and veggies – the good stuff! This will help you stay awake on the road.
4) Get moving when you get tired. To keep your energy up, as you’re sitting for extended periods of time, you need to get your body moving. Pull over, get out of your cab and stretch your legs. Getting your blood flowing will keep your energy up for a longer period of time and keep you more alert. Even using a quick truck and trailer inspection stop will give you an excuse to stop driving for a few minutes and with a quick walk around of your rig, will wake you right up.
5) Keep snacking. Even though you had a healthy meal before you left on your long haul, your blood sugar will drop as you get hungrier causing you not to only get more tired, but more cranky as well. Make sure you stay away from candy and sugar and fill up on healthy snacks like fruit and nuts. This will help you avoid the big sugar crash that comes with unhealthy snacks while driving.
6) Take your vitamins. A multivitamin is a must as it makes up for any deficiencies in your diet (which to be honest, can be plenty with an irregular eating schedule) and certain vitamins like Vitamin B and C’s actually give you energy. Ensure you eat your vitamins with your healthy meal otherwise, you may not realize the full benefits of your vitamins as they are best absorbed with food.
7) Turn up the volume. If necessary, turn up the music in your rig. High energy, lively music is a mood booster and will not only make you feel good but will make you feel less tired on the road. If you’re feeling a little sleepy or a little down from being homesick, good music can help fight your fatigue and low mood.
8) Let the oxygen flow! Open up your windows and let the fresh air in. This works even better if it’s cold out and nice and toasty in your cab. Like taking a cold shower, cold air gives your system a temporary jolt of energy because it shocks your system into alertness. Be mindful though, this a very temporary fix and doesn’t substitute for a good nap so on your next stop, take that power nap!
9) Make audio books your new friend. Just don’t listen to something boring that will cause you to be more tired. Keeping your mind occupied will help you stay awake on your drive longer and whether it’s a thriller or a scary novel, it may keep your adrenaline pumping to keep you wide awake.
10) Be annoying. I know this sounds odd, but irritating yourself to keep out the sleepiness works well. Don’t end up hurting yourself but pinching yourself, smacking, tickling or rubbing the roof of your mouth with your tongue will keep you annoyed enough not to fall asleep.
These are just a few of the ways to keep awake while driving a truck and while there are many others, the main one is to always make sure you get enough sleep as you can’t replace sleep. The MTO has some pretty strict rules about how much you can drive in a day to avoid accidents and fatigue. Although you may feel like you can handle more, making “good time” is not worth risking your safety or others’. Drive safe, and avoid fatigue when driving your long haul.
What do you do to stay alert on the road? Anything that I missed? Please feel free to leave a comment and like our post!