The health and well-being of our drivers is one of our priorities, so we’ve compiled ten physical and mental health tips for truck drivers.
With long and isolating hours, trucking can be a challenging job mentally and physically for those who choose it. Studies have been done on both the physical and mental health of truckers. They have determined that workers in this field are at higher risk for health complications such as obesity, off-duty drug and alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety, and sleep disorders. We’ve compiled ten small things that can be done to help alleviate these stressors and improve trucker health.
Physical Health Tips
Get Quality Sleep
Many truckers forgo regular sleeping hours. There are several reasons for this, such as trying to save time on the job or difficulty falling asleep while on the road, but regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation can cause serious havoc on our bodies. Rest is a primary part of most of our bodily functions, so without it, a person increases their risks for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and immune system damage. Lack of sleep makes it harder to focus and make decisions – an essential part of highway driving!
Truckers can make their sleeping cabs more comfortable and thus improve their sleep by bringing pillows or a blanket from home that will smell familiar, using curtains and earplugs to block out light and sound disturbances, making their cabs colder in the evening, or using a fan to generate white noise.
A hot, nutritious meal is hard to come by when on the open road – but snacks loaded with sugar or salt aren’t the answer. Snacking regularly on unhealthy treats will damage your health in the long run and cause sugar crashes while driving.
A few snack ideas that you can pack before hitting the road include:
- Raw vegetables
- Fresh or dry fruits
- Nuts or trail mix
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Protein drinks or bars
Drink More Water
We’ve all heard this before, but drinking more water keeps you hydrated, happy, and healthy and makes you less prone to fatigue. Swapping sugary sodas and energy drinks for water is the fastest way to increase your intake – but this can be a hard habit to break. Flavoured, carbonated waters like Bubly or La Croix still have that sought-after fizz and taste less boring than regular water. However, they are still healthier than soda!
Have No More Than 2 Cups of Coffee Per Day
Easier said than done, limiting your coffees to two daily can have numerous health benefits. Caffeine, in large doses, can be harmful and cause insomnia, restlessness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and dehydration. In the most severe cases, it can cause you to develop an irregular heartbeat, which may lead to death.
Additionally, caffeine can take up to 10 hours to completely clear your system. This means drinking coffee or an energy drink a few hours before you plan to get some quality sleep is a bad idea.
Physical activity improves brain function, immunity, sleep quality, heart health, and overall happiness of an individual. Improving your fitness can be challenging while on the road, so making the most of your rest stops is essential. 5, 10, 15, and even 20-minute “at-home” workout routines can be found via the internet, but even a 15-minute walk down the road gets the blood pumping, and the legs stretched.
Mental Health Tips
Keeping Your Mind Sharp
An active brain is healthy; exercising your brain improves focus, problem-solving, motor skills, and creativity and boosts your overall mood and energy. Fortunately, all of the physical health tips above also promote healthy brain function, but some additional activities include:
- Playing “brain games” during your breaks. Sudoku, crosswords, word searches, and brain teasers are healthy ways to reset your brain after a long drive.
- Reading books. A few pages before bed is another way to help relax your brain, helping you with that quality sleep.
- Listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. Most truckers already do this to make long drives more enjoyable; the good news is that this helps strengthen your brain since it engages different areas than the ones used for driving.
- Learning a new skill. Being a lifelong learner is important for brain health. The most accessible skill one can learn on the road is a new language since several phone apps, such as Duolingo, make it easy and fun. Other apps like Babbel also have podcasts and audiobooks that you can listen to on the road!
There is double the likelihood of loneliness and depression in truckers than in the general public. Combat the isolation of the job by making a plan with friends and family of when you can call them for a quick or long chat, depending on your schedule.
Scheduling Time to Shower
Although it may seem obvious, showering is another activity truckers often forgo to get the job done faster. Both warm and cold showers have been linked to improving mental health – warm showers relax and comfort the brain. In contrast, cold ones energize it and release endorphins. Take advantage of a truck stop with a shower when you feel like you need a few minutes to rest and recharge.
Know the Warning Signs
Another big issue affecting trucker mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Around 97% of truck drivers are male and face a lot of pressure to be “tough” or “macho.” Recognizing the warning signs in yourself and your colleagues can help truckers get help when needed.
Common symptoms of those struggling with depression include:
- A hopeless or pessimistic outlook
- Loss of interest in work, socializing, or hobbies they previously enjoyed
- Increased fatigue and sleep problems
- Increased anxiety symptoms such as feelings of danger and dread, heavy sweating, or muscle twitching
- Increased irritability and risky behaviour
- Intense mood swings
The most important tip we can give you if you’re struggling with your mental or physical health as a trucker is to reach out to your friends, family, and employer for support. We offer employee benefits to all our drivers and value the efficiency of a happy and healthy team! You can learn more about working with us on our careers page.