Tips on how to get the best z-z-z-z while on the road

Updated Aug 23, 2023

by Hope Zvara

Truck drivers need to sleep. They need sufficient sleep to stay alert behind the wheel, and they need it to be healthy. But for truckers, getting enough sleep isn’t always as easy as some think. And much of your sleep quality depends on how you behave during the day.

Here are some simple strategies for getting a good night's rest.

Follow the 10- 3- 2- 1-0 Rule

What is the 10 3 2 1 0 rule for sleep?

  • 10 hours before bed: No more caffeine
  • 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol
  • 2 hours before bed: No more work (if you can avoid it)
  • 1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs, and computers)
  • 0: The number of times you'll need to hit snooze in the a.m.

This simple rule can be a formula for being more proactive during the day to hit the hay more soundly at night. Our sleep quality often has more to do with what we do during our wake hours than when we are in bed.

Setting up a new sleep environment

Turn off all lights in the cab except those needed for safe driving conditions. This includes any glowing electronics such as phones or tablets--even if they're not being used! They emit EMFs which disrupt brainwave patterns needed for deep REM sleep cycles; these devices should also be moved away from where you sleep at night so you can have higher quality sleep. Consider a weighted sleep mask to help your eyes relax and keep the light out so you can transition to sleep faster.

Get out and get moving daily

Being physically active does not necessarily mean you have to “exercise.” Still, if you are not exerting yourself daily, your body may not feel ready to rest, leading to insomnia, poor-quality sleep, and other issues like muscle cramping, digestive upset, stiffness, and even a racing mind. Consider a brisk 15-minute walk after your last meal or before bed. Find pockets of time to stretch, do as many squats as you can in a minute, or even consider adding a light hand weight to your driving routine and get a few curls in. This not only exerts you physically but can help you mentally empty your mind to fall asleep faster.

Practice deep-breathing exercises

In addition to meditation, deep breathing exercises are a great way to calm down and relax. The 4- 7-8 Breath is one such exercise that can be done anywhere--even in your truck driver seat! Here's how it works:

Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose for a count of four seconds. Hold for seven seconds at the top of the inhale. Exhale through pursed lips (like when whistling) while making an audible "whoosh" sound for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four breath cycles.

Foods to eat before bed to help you sleep

If you must eat before bed, choose your sleep-fuel foods wisely.

Almonds (1 ounce) are an excellent source of magnesium and promote sleep, and may help reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interrupt sleep. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases the production of melatonin. Chamomile tea contains the antioxidant apigenin, which binds to specific receptors in the brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

Tart cherry juice has sleep-promoting effects due to its high amounts of melatonin.

Other food sources to promote better sleep include dairy products, bananas (which contain tryptophan), oatmeal (which contains B vitamins), and whole grains like brown rice or quinoa with a side salad topped with olive oil dressing instead of vinaigrette dressing. Avoid large meals before bedtime because they can disturb your natural circadian rhythms. Big meals can cause digestive issues such as heartburn, bloating, or other discomforting sensations that disturb sleep patterns.

Sleep is critical to staying healthy on the road

It's no secret that truck drivers need to get enough sleep. If you don't, your health and safety could be at risk. Getting enough sleep regularly is essential for staying alert while driving. No one will prioritize your sleep except for you. It’s not just the mattress or the lights at night that will help you sleep; it’s how you go about your day when you are awake that dictates your sleep health. How you sleep tonight depends on how you act, move, think, and breathe during the day today. What one small change can you make to your wake time that can help you during sleep? 

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Hope Zvara is a yoga, movement, and lifestyle expert who is also a nationally recognized speaker, best-selling author, and CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga. She also hosts a radio show titled “A Daily Dose of Hope” that focuses on truck drivers’ well-being, implementing programs that speak to both the body and mind.For more information visit www.mothertruckeryoga.com.