11 Tips for Staying Awake Behind the Wheel

tired truck driver

Sure, you know that you need to follow all of the HOS regulations, taking breaks when required, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get tired before your shift is over. When you start feeling drowsy, try a few of these tips to give you an extra boost of energy.

  1. Eat smaller, lighter meals. Not every meal should be Thanksgiving Day dinner. Too much food in your stomach may make you feel sleepy. Eating small meals every few hours will keep your energy levels steady all day long.
  2. Move around. When you feel tired, find a good place to stop and walk for a few minutes. Stretch your legs. Get some fresh air. Just that small change can help wake you up.
  3. Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. This could be a fast walk or something more strenuous. Consistent exercise is good for your health and helps you feel more energetic – and awake – throughout the day.
  4. Find the balance with your radio. Too much music or too many audiobooks can become white noise that your brain doesn’t process, causing you to feel sleepy. Too much silence can do the same thing, so turning on the radio for a while will perk you up, and when it becomes monotonous, turn it off again.
  5. Avoid sugary snacks. When you stop for a quick break, avoid the sweet stuff. Sure, you’ll feel energized for about an hour, but when you come down from your sugar high, you’ll be even more tired than before.
  6. Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine. If you need a cup of coffee to feel human at the start of your day, definitely drink up. For the rest of the day, make sure to drink lots of water and limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine dehydrates you, which only makes you more tired.
  7. If you’re feeling tired, take a 20 minute power nap during a break. Even that small nap can keep you going for another few hours until you can stop and get some real sleep.
  8. Keep it cool in the cab. Feeling warm and toasty is only going to make you want to sleep. Cool air perks you up and keeps you alert, even when you’re tired.
  9. Stop for the night before you’re dead on your feet. The more exhausted you are when you lay down to sleep, the harder it can be to fall asleep, setting you up for a tiring day on the road when you get up in the morning.
  10. Try to reduce the light contrast around you at night. The strain on your eyes can cause you to feel tired faster. Don’t stare directly into headlights. Dim the console lighting in your cab. If possible, add low level lights to your cab so you’re not sitting in complete dark, making the contrast with the lights around you even greater.
  11. Do your best to keep your emotions even. Too much anger or increased excitement can lead to an energy drain once the immediate emotions pass. Staying calm can prevent you from feeling exhausted earlier than normal.

When an exhausting haul can’t be avoided, try some of these tips to help you stay awake a bit longer. Remember though, no deadline is worth putting your life, and the lives of those around you, at risk. If you need to pull over and get some shuteye, please do so. Better safe than sorry!

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