Best Natural Sleep Remedies for Truckers
by Hank Barton
This article was written by Hank Barton. Hank is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Test authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.
Sleep is important, and as a trucker you’re not getting enough of it. I know because I’m not getting enough of it either. I know some folks that can fall asleep at the drop of a hat just because they’ve trained themselves to do so, but not all of us are that lucky. When it does come time to sleep (physiologically and legally), it can be tough to enter the land of slumber with just a mental command—so where do you turn? Sadly, most over the counter and prescription drugs can leave you with a bad pill hangover in the morning, and some of them will even cause you to fail a DOT drug test. I’ve found that there are some natural remedies and sleep aids that help the whole shut-eye process along nicely, and I thought I’d share a few with you.
Melatonin is pretty nice over short periods of time. It comes in convenient little capsules and puts you to sleep without much of a fuss. Melatonin comes in both fast-release and extended-release varieties, so you have options depending on your sleeping style and current stress level. It’s also a natural hormone, so it’s not dangerous for short term use. As you would with any supplement, start with a low dose to make sure it doesn’t make you depressed or groggy. It’s never had any negative side effects for me but everybody’s different. Doctors don’t recommend melatonin if you take blood thinners, are pregnant or are prone to seizures.
This is one I didn’t have much experience with until recently. It’s apparently used a lot in treating anxiety and depression, but it can also help with insomnia. It’s an herbal extract that’s been in use for thousands of years, but it doesn’t work well for everyone. Most people say it’s best when used repeatedly, but there should also a cut-off point before six weeks are up. It comes in easily-taken supplement form. Just like melatonin, try a small amount first to make sure it doesn’t make you groggy in the morning. You might even try it at home before you try it on the road.
Chamomile’s tricky because it works so well but it’s tough to have on the road. If you have a way to brew chamomile tea, I’d highly recommend using it. It’s another ancient sleep remedy, it’s calming and it’s pretty tasty to boot. I usually brew about two or three bags in a big travel mug and make sure I keep the lid on. It does take a while to get used to such a strong batch, but it almost always helps me fall asleep when I’ve got the yard jitters. The trick is either boiling the water yourself or finding a place to buy some hot water when it’s close to sleep time—it’s not always easy.
Food, Drink and Vitamins
Even if you’re health-conscious, it’s not easy to make sure everything you eat is a well-balanced meal when you’re on the road. A better diet can make all the difference in the world if you’re on an irregular sleep schedule, which most of you are. First of all, taking a good multivitamin every day covers a lot of bases and is easy to do. The second thing to mind is your caffeine intake—I know it sucks to skip out on a cup of coffee or a Red Bull, but it’s best to avoid putting more caffeine in your body starting at about six hours before you roughly plan on sleeping. You can be a little loose with this, but it’s good to keep in mind. Avoid candy and other sweets a few hours before it’s time to sleep because they can compound insomnia in a multitude of ways. Foods rich in magnesium (leafy veggies, almonds, cashews and whole grains) can help with both sleep and anxiety. I know it can be tough, but your recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables can come in handy, too.
I speak from experience when I say there’s no easy cure for insomnia when you’re on the road. A combination of these natural remedies (especially that last section) and using some good old fashioned relaxation techniques can help you make sure you’re rested for the long journey ahead. In a trucker’s life, sleep is never going to come at ideal times or in ideal doses, but we can help it along without turning to the potentially dangerous word of pills and other drugs. Getting the best sleep you can on the road just takes an open mind and a willingness to try something new.