With a demanding schedule and a body pumped with caffeine, trying to get a normal night’s rest on the road can seem a challenging task for many truck drivers.
Here are seven strategies to help you fall asleep if you’re feeling wired or fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night:
Turn off all the lights you can. And only turn on the lights you absolutely need. “Light is stimulating because our brains and bodies interpret light – whether it comes from the sun or a lamp – as a signal to be alert,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center. So don’t flip on every light on the way to the bathroom. Find your way in the dark or relive your younger years with a night light.
Read to make your eyes tired. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, pick up a book or a nearby magazine and give your eyes a little ‘workout.’ However, keep the content-neutral, meaning avoid content that will get your heart racing like a thriller or drama. Dr. Winter recommends keeping the reading light to a minimum and to try a small reading lamp to light your book.
Use your brain. Instead of occupying your mind with your iPod or computer, which emit light that can keep you up, try closing your eyes and accomplishing a mental task. Visualize something happening that’s important to you. For example, an experienced golfer could imagine playing a round of golf, step by step. “It’s not likely you’ll make it past the first hole,” Dr. Winder says.
Stay still. Pick a position and stick with it – whether it’s your back, side or stomach. If wake up in the middle of the night then start moving around, your body is more likely to interpret that as a reason to stay awake. Even if you stay busy with reading or visualization, make sure you’re laying down with a still body.
Don’t eat at night. Even though late night munchies are a common thing, it actually inhibits the body’s ability to fall asleep and to stay asleep. “You can easily start to condition your brain and body to expect food at that time of night, which can reinforce the habit of waking up,” says Dr. Winter.
Try progressive relaxation. Progressive relaxation is a technique developed by physicians based on the theory that relaxing the body can also relax the mind. Holding tension in your muscles alerts the brain that it needs to stay awake. Consciously reducing stress in your muscles, on the other hand, signals that it’s time to fall asleep. Taking long, deep breaths, focus on releasing tension one muscle group at a time, starting with your largest muscle groups – like your thighs and back – and slowly work your way to smaller muscles in your hands and face.
Don’t make up the sleep you missed. If you’re extra tired and short on rest, a nap can be a tempting thing. Dr. Winter suggests resisting the urge, as you could be creating a template for your brain and body to stay awake in the middle of the night. “You essentially want to penalize your brain to avoid this happening regularly,” he says.