It’s that time of year again — no pun intended.
Daylight saving time (DST) starts the second Sunday of March, signifying the beginning of longer days for the coming warmer months. While some extra quality time with the sun is wonderful, getting our bodies adjusted to our new sleep schedule takes work.
On average, there are nearly four times as many injuries on the Monday following DST. With commercial drivers spending many hours behind the wheel with increased speeds on highways and interstates, DST is a risky business. Fortunately, there are nine ways truckers can prepare themselves to enjoy the sun without stress.
#1: Understand the risks of limited sleep for drivers
A 2020 evaluation of DST's effects on traffic accident risks established the risk of fatal accidents increased by a whopping 6% following the time change. Couple that threat with the sheer size and weight of commercial vehicles, and commercial drivers need to be doubly cautious.
#2: Say goodnight to your electronic devices
Many of us love some late-night scrolling, but that blue light right before bed is not your friend — especially if you’re trying to adjust your sleep schedule ahead of time. Swap out your phone and television with a good book, and you’ll likely fall asleep faster and smoother.
#3: Get a head start on the time change
You don’t need to wait until Sunday to try to get your body to adjust to the time change. Instead, you can make small changes to your sleep schedule starting Friday. Pretend like DST is already in effect, and aim to go to bed and wake up as if the new time is already in place.
According to the Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18-64 should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep, while adults aged 65 and older should shoot for seven to eight hours.
#4: Tune in to your needs
Forcing yourself to keep going if your body is tapped out is one of the surest ways to end up in a hazardous accident. Adjusting to DST isn’t a long journey. Be especially gentle with yourself the week following the time change, and you’ll start feeling normal and back on your schedule before you know it!
#5: When it comes to sleep, know that quality is as important as quantity
Sometimes we make all the effort to get a good night’s sleep, but real sleep issues, like chronic insomnia or difficulty breathing, can leave us tossing and turning all night. If you’re experiencing sleep issues and you’ve tried and tried to implement healthy bedtime habits, you may want to consult your primary care physician.
#6: Consider where you’re parking
Even the best sleepers may have difficulty falling asleep if they’re parked in a less-than-safe area. While finding designated parking areas is difficult, it doesn’t have to be. You can work with your back-office team to find designated parking areas for your vehicle ahead of time and ensure you’re sleeping somewhere safe.
#7: Reduce your caffeine intake way before bed
Decreasing caffeine may seem like a straightforward tip, but most people don’t know they should typically limit caffeine consumption around five hours before bed. It isn’t easy to reduce caffeine when combined with hours of nonstop driving. Luckily, there are other ways to feel energetic while behind the wheel. Stock up on some energy-friendly foods, such as nuts, dark chocolate, and boiled eggs, or press play on some of your favorite upbeat music.
#8: Make your sleep station a place you enjoy sleeping
Sleeping away from home isn’t easy. You can make your sleep bunker a good home-away-from-home with the right items. Treat yourself to a cozy blanket, some aromatherapy, or whatever it is that helps you have a good night’s sleep.
#9: Spend quality time with the sun
Being a trucker often means you’re always on the go. During DST, though, it’s imperative to slow down your day-to-day habits to reduce sleep fatigue. Spending a few minutes with daylight rays first thing in the morning can help bring your brain to a normal circadian rhythm, so you can function at your peak.
For more driver tips, check out our article on heart-healthy suggestions for truckers.