Drowsy driving is suspected to be a primary cause in more than 20% of road fatalities. Most fatigue-related accidents occur during normal sleeping hours, and the more severe the crash, the more likely it is that the driver or drivers were fatigued. Fatigue is a likely factor in almost one-third of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas. Many people think fatigue is only a problem for long-distance drivers, however, it is just as relevant for short-distance drives. People generally don’t become fatigued from driving. Usually, they are already tired when they get behind the wheel from long hours, shift work, lack of sleep, sleep apnoea or physically demanding roles. Your body can’t fight the need to sleep. Chemicals build up in your brain until they reach a tipping point and you will fall asleep. If you’re in charge of an HGV, that’s pretty bad news.
This might sound obvious but bear with us. A good night’s sleep is crucial to stave off fatigue on the road. If you haven’t got enough good quality sleep during the night, then you will always feel tired during the day. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep in order to be functional – for some, it’s as little as 5 hours, for some it’s as much as 10. So find out how much sleep you need to feel refreshed and recharge your body and mind, and make sure you get the same amount every night. If you know you’re driving the next day, getting enough sleep is an important part of your job safety, and you should always make sure you have enough.
The food we eat has a lot to do with how well we sleep, and when we want to sleep as well. If we eat a diet full of sugar and fats, then we will not only feel lethargic all the time, but our sleep will be less restful than it should be. This is why feeling tired is such a good indicator of dietary problems. So switching to a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and high-fibre foods will give you the slow energy release you need to stay awake during the day and ensure you sleep well at night. Avoiding junk foods during the day will also mean you don’t feel as bloated and drowsy after meals, reducing the risk of afternoon slumps behind the wheel.
A common cause of fatigue in professional drivers is driving when they would usually be sleeping. Humans have very deeply ingrained sleeping patterns, and it is difficult to readjust them. If you struggle with night shifts, then it might be best for you to switch to only day driving. Similarly, if you’re used to driving at night and are finding that driving early in the morning or evening is causing you problems, then you may be better switching to only night driving. The point we’re trying to get to is this – you need to be sure you can stay in a pattern that works for your circadian rhythms so that you can function properly and without tiredness when you drive.
If, after all of this, you still struggle with fatigue, it’s time to get yourself checked out. There are a lot of factors behind the scenes that can cause fatigue and tiredness, even if you’re doing everything else right. Disorders like sleep apnoea can disturb your sleep so much that even though you’ve been sleeping all night, you feel exhausted and not well rested. And that’s just one issue. If you’re taking certain medications then they could also be causing issues, and other medical conditions can sap your energy, or cause you to fall asleep suddenly (like narcolepsy). If you feel like you’re struggling, go and see your GP.
At The HGV Training Centre, we understand exactly how serious driver tiredness is. When so many accidents and fatalities are caused by driver fatigue, we want to do our part to ensure drivers aren’t fatigued behind the wheel. That’s why our instructors don’t just teach you how to drive HGV’s – they teach you everything you might need to know about staying safe on the road. To find out more, or to book on to your first course, get in touch with us today.
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