This list has 15 ways to stay awake—and focused—while truck driving. These are simple ways to boost your energy, and what’s even better is that they are all in one place! Find out what works best for you and learn a little something along the way.
Factors To Keep In Mind
These tools will be great to help you, but they are not a replacement for sleep. The best cure for a lack of energy is to sleep. Try a quick nap—sometimes 15 to 20 minutes can really rejuvenate you.
When you’re a truck driver, you might think being late to deliver whatever you’re hauling is a bad thing. However, if you try to push through your drowsiness, the results can be life-changing. Accidents are nothing to take lightly! Arriving late once in a while is a small price to pay for the safety of everyone on the road.
With these thoughts in mind, read on for those 15 quick tips!
1: Start Fresh
Trucking is like any other job in the way that you need a good night’s sleep to do your best at work. That means a measly four hours of shut-eye won’t cut it.
But how much sleep do you really need? Experts recommend adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Keep in mind this will be slightly different from person to person, and outside factors can come into play as well.
For example, you might need more sleep if you’re feeling under the weather. A little extra sleep has been proven to help your immune system if you’re fighting off a cold.
Consider altering your sleep schedule if you struggle with any of the following:
- You wake up frequently and do so more than just to make a trip to the restroom.
- You still feel tired when it’s time to start driving.
- You roll out of bed 10 minutes before it’s time to get on the road.
Try to avoid anything on this list! These three will cause you to be drowsy and not work to the best of your ability.
Develop good sleep habits, too. This means you should cut out caffeine before bed, relax, and maybe even take melatonin, a natural sleep aid.
A good night of sleep will help ensure a good day on the road. Never skip this step!
2: Take Vitamins
Vitamins are a good fix for feeling your best. Start taking them each day (usually in the morning) for the best results. Remember to consult with your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
Let’s talk about a few vitamins you might consider taking.
This vitamin is readily available in animal products like meat and dairy. B-12 is a vitamin that helps your body create new blood cells and ensure healthy nerve cells.
If you don’t get enough of this nutrient, you might feel tired or sluggish. However, if you have a deficiency, it might be helpful to boost your energy levels.
These B-12 gummies on Amazon are a great solution. There are two per serving and should be taken daily. The chewable texture allows you to take them on the go, too.
Iron helps your hemoglobin levels—this means your blood cells can carry oxygen throughout your body. Without sufficient iron in your diet, you might develop anemia, leaving you weak or tired.
As with any vitamin, consult your doctor before taking this supplement. In conjunction with a multivitamin, B-12 and iron might help boost your energy levels.
It might surprise you to know a lot of vitamin deficiencies will cause the same problems (like fatigue). If you suspect this is the case, talk to your doctor. They will be able to remedy any issues with the help of bloodwork.
3: Avoid Medications That Make You Drowsy
Medications that make you drowsy are dangerous to take before you start driving for the day. They will make it even harder to focus!
But how do you know if a medication will make you drowsy?
- First of all, you should know the most prominent side-effects of any medications you take. Knowledge–and awareness–is power. If you aren’t sure about the side-effects of your medication, read the bottle. If it’s a prescription, you can also ask the pharmacist or doctor about these potential issues.
- Second, know how your medications affect you. When you start taking a new medication, you should do so on your days off. If it makes you drowsy, talk to your doctor; they might suggest an alternative medicine or taking it at night instead.
You should also avoid medications with antihistamines before driving. Medications for allergies, colds, motion sickness, and sleep aids usually contain antihistamines, and this substance can make people drowsy.
Remember to discuss any issues you might face about medicine with your doctor.
4: Eat Healthy Meals
Eating healthy is one of the most annoying tips to hear, but it is one of the most effective when it comes to feeling your best. Haven’t you heard about it on infomercials about healthy diets?
Never fear–you don’t need to go on a crash-course diet to feel better and more focused. You simply need to make a few healthy choices, which is totally possible…even as a truck driver.
Here are some examples of how you can eat more healthfully while on the road:
- Swap a sausage-and-cheese omelet for an egg white omelet, ask for turkey sausage, or cut out the cheese.
- Add in fruit and veggies. A little spinach or some bell peppers in your omelet won’t hurt you. Strawberries and blueberries also make a great addition to oatmeal.
- Chose balanced snacks such as an apple or baby carrots paired with some string cheese. This will keep you more satisfied for longer.
- Opt for water instead of soda or juice. If you drink sugary drinks, this can lead to crashes and feeling tired later.
- Have reasonable portions. This is especially important when you dig into something decadent! Feeling over-full can make you drowsy, too.
You don’t need to change your entire diet overnight, but a few good choices here and there will support good energy and focus while working. Try a few of these tricks with your next breakfast and see how it goes.
5: Pack A Crunchy Snack To Go
Have you ever noticed how loud crunchy snacks are when you chomp into them? The noise is sure to keep you awake if you’re tired, and if you haven’t eaten in a while, it should help even more.
Some good crunchy snacks to keep on hand are pretzels, popcorn, and rice snacks. These snacks come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors to boot. If you want to eat something healthier (like we talked about earlier), pick up some baby carrots or celery.
A crunchy snack is a great pick-me-up mid-morning, too. Be sure to mix up what you eat to keep things exciting.
6: Stay Hydrated
How many times does someone have to tell you to stay hydrated? It’s probably getting old to hear, but you really should keep on top of your water intake. It will keep you more alert and help you take regular breaks, which will enable you to have a healthy balance between breaks and driving.
Avoid the following problems with some helpful tips.
If You “Don’t Like Water”
Sometimes water is boring. Sometimes water might have a different taste from one place to another. You just don’t enjoy drinking water!
Instead of avoiding drinking water (resulting in chugging a lot all at once later), try drinking a little bit at a time. If you take a few sips every 10-15 minutes, it’ll cut down on how much you need to chug in one go.
If you need some motivation, label the side of a gallon jug with 2, 4, 6, and 8 cup markers. It’ll help you see the progress you’re making. If you’re using a water bottle (14-20 ounces) instead of a jug, try to drink 3-4 bottles each day.
Pro Tip: You can also try adding lemon, lime, or berries to your water or seltzer.
Try increasing your water intake gradually; you’ll feel much better for it.
If You Need Motivation
Being healthier might not be motivation enough to get all your water in each day. Sometimes you need a little extra motivation! Set up a simple reward system for days you meet your water consumption goals.
This reward should ideally be small. Maybe it’s a piece of candy or your favorite salty snack. Maybe it means you can have a soda or juice with dinner.
Whatever gets you to drink your water is a good idea. Try a few of these tips and stay hydrated!
7: Use Breaks To Get Moving
According to Boston University, getting your heart rate up during a break (by moving) helps blood flow to the brain. This stimulates focus and will be a good refresher before you get back to driving.
You can do this in many ways, and you might prefer one way over another. Remember: it’s not about exercising; you don’t need to get all sweaty, but you do want to raise your heart rate a little.
Below are a few suggestions on how to move during your break:
- Jumping Jacks: This is a basic move that will get blood pumping quickly. Pair it with a little stretching, too.
- Knee Raises: Lift one knee up to your waist (or as high as you can) and put it down. Alternate your knees. A minute or two of this will really help. Again, remember to stretch a little.
- Shoulder Rolls: Move your shoulders in circular motions. If you have enough space, you can get your arms into it as well. This will help stretch out your stiff neck as well.
Be sure to move for a few minutes on your breaks to get your heart rate up. It will really help you focus when you get back in the truck to keep hauling.
8: Use Other Breaks To Master The Caffeine Nap
Ah, coffee. It really helps wake you up, but who would’ve thought to drink some right before napping? Apparently, someone did, because this article talks about “coffee naps!”
Essentially, you consume some coffee (or other caffeine) right before you take a cat nap–about 15 minutes. The idea is during those 15 minutes you get time to get some shuteye before the caffeine kicks in.
While more research needs to be done to see if these actually work, a placebo effect might be just the trick you need to get back on the road.
9: Drop The Temperature In The Cab
The next time you’re driving, notice how the temperature of the cab makes you feel. Hot? Sleepy? You aren’t alone–being too warm sometimes puts drivers to sleep.
Now turn the air conditioning on or up a notch. Many drivers swear changing the temperature helps them stay awake and more alert.
While there isn’t much proof behind this theory, the change in your environment might throw you off enough to pay a little more attention to the job at hand. That totally counts!
10: Open The Window
If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you probably aren’t going to stop as often. Longer gaps between breaks mean you need to drive for longer periods of time, too.
So mix it up by opening the window. Not only does the open window create a change in temperature, but it also creates a different noise than you might typically listen to on a drive.
Pro Tip: If the sound bothers your ears, try raising or lowering the window a little bit at a time. You can find the most comfortable setting this way.
A little fresh air never hurts, either.
11: Listen To Something That Interests You
In this digital age, there is no shortage of audio to listen to while you drive! Let’s talk about a few options you can download on your smartphone to stave off boredom while driving.
Music is a great way to stay awake and alert while driving. Keeping boredom at bay doesn’t hurt, either.
Try listening to a mix of music while you drive to mix up the mood, and keep yourself guessing by shuffling the order of the songs you pick! Between you and me, songs that make you feel nostalgic will have you singing along.
Perhaps the most prominent music app lately is Spotify, which also provides podcasts (more on that later). Spotify also has a free version with ads. Other great apps for music include Amazon Music (comes with your Amazon Prime subscription) and the Google Play Music.
Remember to download content before you get on the road!
Podcasts are independently made audio that is usually free to download and listen to. Countless podcasts have popped up all around the world, and topics are almost as limitless. There’s a little something for everyone (such as current events, crafts, and other hobbies).
Spotify, mentioned above, also has podcasts available in both their ad-supported and paid versions. However, there are a lot of apps out there to listen to podcasts. Check out this article about podcast apps to learn more about listening with Overcast, Stitcher, and more.
Have a few podcasts ready to play so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Audiobooks might be a little more pricey for audio, but nothing beats a good book. There are a few big retailers of audiobooks, but many small ones as well. The best part is you can download the content to your smartphone for easy listening later when you’re offline!
Visit Amazon’s Audible for a subscription audiobook service. They have countless hits on various topics, and they often offer a free trial before you start. You have 3 credits per month to spend on the audiobooks of your choice.
Another app is Scribd, and in addition to audiobooks, they also offer magazines. They boast a smaller price tag than others at $8.99 and offer unlimited books; when you finish one, you delete it and download a new one.
Become well-read while you drive…without the reading!
Listening to something different might help you pass the time and stay awake on the job. Remember to be safe, and pull over if you need to.
12: The Sound Of Silence
Have you ever noticed sometimes noise is just a nuisance? You aren’t alone! Sometimes you just need to hear yourself think.
I frequently turn off the radio–or whatever I’m listening too–to drive silently. Sometimes it’s only for a few minutes, but you might be surprised at how much it can help.
Pro tip: Turn off the radio and open the window at the same time. It might be noisy, but it’s a different noise than you were listening to a moment ago.
13: Avoid Tunnel Vision
When you drive for long periods of time, you kind of go into a state of auto-pilot. This is what you want to avoid because you are losing focus. Tunnel vision often accompanies this auto-pilot mode.
You can avoid it with one simple tip: Keep your eyes moving.
Think back to when you had to learn how to drive. Whoever taught you must’ve told you to be aware of your surroundings, right? Keeping your eyes moving is the same principle.
You want to be aware of what’s on your right and left as well, so avoid looking straight ahead for long periods of time. This will keep you occupied with a task, and it will keep everyone around you safe.
14: Grab Some Coffee
Coffee is a lifesaver–especially if you didn’t sleep as well as you would’ve liked. Unsurprisingly, many people all over the world need to start their day with a cuppa to make it through the day. Sometimes an afternoon pick-me-up is needed, too.
However, there are limits. Coffee doesn’t replace sleep, either. Experts recommend no more than 32 liquid ounces of coffee per day (roughly 400 mg of caffeine). This is the equivalent of two 16-ounce cups–if you want to split up the effects of the caffeine.
You should also stop drinking coffee (and other caffeinated drinks) early afternoon. According to experts, the halflife of coffee is 5 or 6 hours. In other words, caffeine wears off after 5 to 6 hours–depending on the person, of course.
Remember to limit coffee, and don’t let coffee interfere with your sleep schedule!
15: Mix It Up
We all know one thing might not be a fix-all kind of solution. Sometimes you might need a quick nap to energize you, and other times, you might need to get out and stretch.
You need to know yourself as well as what you need to succeed. Driving long distances is tough, but if you mix up the routine, you’ll be able to stay awake and focused even on the toughest of days.
One size doesn’t fit all! You should keep this in mind as you move forward, armed with these tips and tricks.
Problems With Sleep
If you’ve tried everything–including the tips above–and still can’t sleep, it’s time to go to the doctor. Your problem might be something bigger than just being tired.
One problem you might have is sleep apnea. This is a disruption of the airway while you sleep, which causes poor quality sleep. Sometimes patients who suffer from this problem don’t even get into REM (rapid eye movement), which is the most restful part! This makes for a crummy night’s sleep with scant energy the next day.
Visit the doctor and ask about a sleep study. They will refer you to a specialist, and they will set up a study for you. Sometimes this can even be done at home depending on your insurance provider. In some cases, however, you sleep at a facility so doctors can monitor your sleep.
CPAP is the treatment for sleep apnea. It is a mask with tubing that connects to a machine. The machine pumps a constant flow of air to make sure you breathe constantly through the night. In turn, this eliminates those with sleep apnea from waking up constantly in the middle of the night.
It’s important to get treated for sleep apnea because risks include weight gain, diabetes, stroke, and other health issues.
Getting used to the machine might be annoying at first, but some experts say patients eventually can’t sleep without it! A night without CPAP leaves them exhausted. Some wonder what they ever did without it.
This is because CPAP treatment can be life-changing. With a good night of sleep, you are more energetic and alert. Some patients even lose weight, have better blood pressure, and feel happier on a daily basis.
Sleep Apnea And Truck Drivers
Truck drivers have to go through a physical and other screening before they are cleared for a Commercial Drivers License. Sometimes a sleep study might be included in this screening.
Other drivers develop trouble later on.
Regardless of when it’s diagnosed, sleep apnea patients need to be treated and compliant before they can start (or return to) work. This might seem like a troublesome process, but it keeps people safe because you won’t fall asleep at the wheel.
But what does compliant mean? This standard is determined by insurance providers. It essentially makes sure you are using your CPAP machine for a certain number of hours each night (usually over a span of 30 days).
When this is completed, you can return to work. Keep in mind you will have to prove compliance routinely, so you must continue your treatment each night.
Rules For Truck Drivers With Sleep Apnea
There is currently not a law in place that states anyone in the trucking industry needs to be tested for sleep apnea. Instead, it is monitored by a case-by-case basis.
However, some trucking companies insist on their employees getting a sleep study after the initial physical assessment. They find exhausted drivers are a potential liability, and rightfully so. Falling asleep at the wheel causes accidents, loss of product, and even loss of life.
There is a lot of controversy and debate revolving around trucking and sleep apnea treatment compliance. There may be a law that forbodes truck drivers from working if non-compliant.
I hope this guide for truck drivers staying awake and focused helps you with your long days on the road. Remember to keep these 15 tips and tricks in mind–from vitamins to caffeine naps and back again. Also, remember if you need more help, reach out to your doctor. There is a way to get the sleep you need to do your best work on the road…safely.