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Back Behind the Wheel: Sleep: The Best Medicine

Before the invention of the light bulb, the average person slept approximately 10 hours per day. Since then, the average North American only sleeps 6.9 hours per day.

Before the invention of the light bulb, the average person slept approximately 10 hours per day. Since then, the average North American only sleeps 6.9 hours per day.

Sleep is very important. Without it, we are unable to function properly. Unfortunately, most (if not all) professional drivers are not getting enough of it, due to the nature of the job. This inability of the drivers to get proper amounts of sleep will ultimately produce individuals who are chronically tired, in pain, “grumpy” and less productive. Medical research confirms that sleep helps your heart, immune system, blood sugar and arteries to function better.

A lack of sleep increases your susceptibility to infectious diseases, influenza and other types of infections. When you are sleeping, this is when your body heals both physically and mentally. Physiologically there are many changes in your body that occur while you are sleeping which prepares your body to handle the various stresses/tasks that are required on a day to day basis.

The daily cycle of life, which includes sleeping and waking, is called the circadian rhythm. Our body has a “biological clock” which is responsible for signaling to the body when it should/need sleep and when it should be awake.

This “biological clock” is internal and is not affected by light or conventional time. It is built in, and is innate (autonomic/automatic).

Humans are designed for daytime activity and night time rest (normal circadian rhythm). Driving at night may be easier (less traffic, crossing the border etc…), but it maybe physically harder to stay awake and alert.

There are two distinct states of sleep. The first state is known as Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (non REM) quiet sleep, and the second is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) active sleep.

Every night you go through these two states five to six times, with the cycle repeating about every 90 minutes.

In non REM sleep, your body slows down (respiration, heart rate, brain activity) while the opposite is true during REM sleep. REM sleep is when you dream. Interestingly, studies have shown that during REM sleep your body functions as if you were awake. So your dreams do feel real, because your body is physically responding to them.

The average adult requires seven-to-nine hours of sleep per night, while teenagers and kids need at least 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night. This is the amount of time that the body needs to heal and repair itself. If you feel agitated, lethargic, unable to concentrate, have headaches, muscle fatigue, doze off while driving and feel sleepy all the time, it may be an indication that you need to get more sleep. In the U.S. there are close to 200,000 automobile accidents and 1,500 deaths from accidents per year attributed to sleepy drivers. Studies have shown that people who drive when they are extremely tired (drowsy), is as risky/dangerous as driving drunk. An Australian study reported that 17 hours of sleep deprivation caused impaired performance in various activities. The performance of test subjects was comparable to those with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 per cent, a level that defines intoxication in many U.S. states.

For a small percentage of people, getting to sleep and having quality sleep is hard to do. Lifestyle, diet, occupation, biochemical imbalances, personality and the environment can all affect a person’s ability to get a good night sleep.

So here are some tips you can try to improve the quality of your sleep: 1) Try and have a regular time that you go to bed and wake up everyday; 2) Avoid sweets, juices and or chocolate near bed time; 3) Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow; 4) Use your bedroom only for sleep, do not watch TV, use the computer and or do work in bed; 5) Finish eating two-to-three hours before going to sleep; 6) Avoid vigorous exercise in the evening; 7) Make sure the room is not stuffy, try and have fresh air circulating in the room; 8) Avoid alcohol; 9) Try and relax have some down time before going to bed.

Driving truck is tough. Driving truck without sleep is even tougher and more dangerous.

Many of the accidents that occur on the road today can be attributed to a person not getting enough sleep.

Take care, drive safely and sleep tight!

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 (888) 252-7327, or e-mail

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