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Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Missing sleep does more than make you tired

| February 16, 2013

Two of the biggest health topics in trucking are sleep and obesity, though they’re not often linked. They are in the case of sleep apnea, where obesity is a big indicator and chronic fatigue is a major safety concern.


Obese drivers are known to have higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

A brief item in Wired magazine notes further links between sleep deprivation and obesity. It turns out that when you don’t get enough sleep, various hormones go to work, making you extra hungry. Also, lack of sleep also affects the brain in a way that “impairs our capacity to evaluate which foods are best for us,” the article says. Not a good thing for drivers having to fashion a diet from truck stop diners and fast food.

Another study reached an obvious conclusion – people are happier when they get enough sleep – though one detail brings trucking to mind. Researchers monitored brain activity of two groups, one sleep-deprived, one not: “Compared with those who got a normal amount of sleep, the tired group was over 60 percent more sensitive to negative emotional stimuli.” Truckers could tell scientists a thing or two about “negative emotional stimuli.”

The frustrating thing is that many driving jobs don’t allow for much control over sleep schedules. And the hours of service regs, still being debated prior to their next evolution this summer, only make things more complicated. If you missed Todd Dills’ recent recap of where this stands, along with driver sentiment about split sleeper berth flexibility, it’s worth a look. Also of interest is a recent study done on split sleep periods and commercial drivers.

To the extent your job does allow any control over sleep patterns, make that a priority. It could be a step toward health and happiness.


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  • Mike Jones

    Hell yes lack of sleep will get you killed in many ways….ur BRAIN is not going to REACT effectively in critical situations like rush hour in the big city traffic…one lapse in judgement and you have SERIOUS consequences….Dozing Off out in the Desert is a world apart from fighting heavy traffic…finding an address…etc..that becomes more difficult when FATIGUED…guys fall asleep in broad daylight out in the desert…all alone…..and of course after Midnight all bets are off unless he is drinking coffee out of his thermous……..Yes fatigue is no joke..and as you get around 50 years old it can become a double nightmare…..the 20 year olds have energy..the Old buzzard really does not have that abundance.

  • USMC 69-75

    Mike, I resemble that statement! But with age comes experience, after 50 we learn that there isn’t any load out there worth killing or dying over! We don’t have anything to prove (like the youngsters, I can do a west coast turn in 1 week!!!! LOL) We get tired we pull over and take a siesta! But the FMCSA is now saying that after studies, napping is worse for you??? These people need to get out of our trucks, lives, and pocket books, and go study on how they are killing our country with OVER regulations on every aspect of our lives!!!! They want to pass all these bills, they need to be subject to them as well, or they don’t stick! JMO

  • East Coast Truck

    What your saying makes sense. The odds are that if you are missing sleep, your lifestyle is already draining your productivity. Add the physical effects on top of unhealthy lifestyle choices and you could be in real trouble


  • Keith Birmingham

    I knew that I was putting too many hours in on the job for my own health. But, after 3 citations in 3 days, and realizing that I had no clue as to what was going on around me, I knew that I was endangering much more than just my own life. The next day I crawled out of the trucks for what appears to be the last time. After more than 3 years of retirement my sleep habits are still erratic, but much better. My weight is down by 40 pounds. I need to loose another 30 pounds. I have kept very busy with a more active lifestyle. It is paying off with a much healthier life although I still have not learned how to cope with idle time. Instead, I work. The erratic sleep conditions faced by truckers is, by far, the worst enemy to their health.

  • Mike Jones

    No doubt…..Proper Sleep in todays world is a MUST. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.