Missing sleep does more than make you tired

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Updated Apr 22, 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.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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