Mercer Transportation


Mercer Transportation’s Strategies for Better Sleep

Between truck stops, rest areas, and the occasional exit ramp, it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep, especially for a hard-working Mercer driver. After a little too much caffeine (or after a reefer pulls alongside), getting a few consecutive hours of sleep can feel like one of the hardest parts of life on the road. You know how getting drowsy affects your own alertness and reaction time during the day. When other motorists have trouble staying in their lane, it’s often hard to guess whether alcohol, texting, or drowsiness is to blame. Although the estimates vary widely, drowsiness is thought to be a factor in more than 6,000 crash fatalities each year. Some aspects of your health and road conditions are beyond your control, but you owe it to yourself to figure out a sleep routine that works for you. 

Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

We talk a lot about diet and exercise but sleep also has a major impact on your overall health. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Not only essential for your mental health (a priority here at Mercer), sleep also provides time for your heart and blood vessels to be healed and repaired from the day’s work. When a person suffers from ongoing sleep deficiency, the consequences can include an increased risk of kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. Missing sleep can make you irritable and weaken your immune system.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and CPAP Therapy 

More than just a bad case of snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) stops your breathing for 10-30 seconds repeatedly in the night. In some cases, the airway might be blocked for a minute or more. If you have untreated OSA, then even a full 10 hours of “sleep” can leave you feeling exhausted and drowsy during the day. Groups with a higher risk of OSA include people who are smokers, overweight, middle-aged or older, have a large neck size, and have family members with OSA.


The FMCSA currently has no universal requirement for sleep apnea testing as part of the DOT physical, but if you’re diagnosed with moderate or severe OSA, then you may be required to comply with medical treatment in order to maintain your CDL. Despite the related controversy within the transportation industry, it’s clear that proper treatment can be life-changing for people with severe OSA.

You probably know a few people who wear continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to sleep, and you’ve probably heard both good and bad things. Some models of CPAP machines don’t work well in a truck, but increasingly portable models have become available. If you can’t get a CPAP machine with its own battery, then you may be able to find one that’s compatible with a deep-cycle marine battery. If you feel like you’re rarely well rested, even after a full night’s sleep, then you should try to learn more about OSA.

Invest in Your Mattress 

How long has it been since you replaced the mattress in your truck? An inflatable or foam insulation pad (like for camping) can keep you warm and add some extra cushion. A pillow topper can be a big upgrade in itself. Don’t be afraid to invest in a quality pillow or try a new firmness. Considering the amount of money you spend on equipment maintenance and the number of hours you spend in bed, you shouldn’t try to survive with the cheapest possible bedding. Make sure your selection of blankets and comforters are appropriate for the season and possible temperatures ahead.

Take Control of Your Surroundings (When You Can) 

When you’re running in familiar lanes, try to plan ahead to end the day in places with decent sleeping options. It’s no fun paying for parking, but the expense may be worthwhile if the “free” alternative is a restless night in a less secure spot. Use sunshades and curtains to block external light. Cover and blackout the various internal lights and displays of your electronics. Don’t underestimate the power of foam earplugs and a sleep mask, but make sure your alarm is loud enough to work through the earplugs.

Try to Stick to a Nightly Routine 

Thanks to your body’s biological clock, it’s easier to get to sleep when you keep your hours as consistent as possible. That’s easier said than done, but it’s worth making the effort. When you’re home with family, you’ll want to relax and enjoy yourself, but try not to deviate too far from your normal bedtime. Before you bed down for the night, develop a calm down routine. Avoid eating or drinking too late. Instead of listening to news reports or other media that might get you agitated, find something low-key and chill for the end of the day, like Mercer’s YouTube Channel ( You might even try meditation or a podcast about relaxation techniques. Even if you aren’t interested in the spiritual side of yoga and all that jazz, you can still benefit from clearing away your mental distractions and paying attention to your breathing

As much as circumstances allow, try to develop a nightly routine that works for you. Hot showers are great when they’re available. Do some stretches or take a slow, relaxing stroll (but don’t try to squeeze in a last-minute Rocky workout routine that elevates your blood pressure). Wash your face, change into comfortable pajamas, and maybe read a chapter of a book (preferably not on a screen). Silence might be a better choice than upbeat music. Let your body have plenty of cues to realize that it’s time to calm down and sleep. Repetition is important for training your body, so try to follow the same routine every night.

Be Smart with Your Smartphone 

You’ve probably heard how the blue light of laptop screens and smartphones can keep you awake. It’s also a good idea to avoid stressful or emotional conversations before bed. If you can get into a routine schedule, it’ll be easier to let family and the load coordinators at Mercer know the hours when you shouldn’t be expected to answer calls. Apps that play white noise, nature sounds, and other background audio for meditation can be useful for falling asleep. Although screen time is generally a bad idea, plenty of folks enjoy a tv show or movie at the end of the day. Think about the content of the shows you’re choosing, whether the villains or action sequences are getting you hyped up. Most video entertainment is designed to provoke an emotional reaction from the audience, but not many shows are created with a goal of putting you to sleep

Make the Right Choice for your Business 

Ultimately, you’ve got to figure out what system works best for you. Some people sleep just fine with moderate amounts of light and background noise. You’ve got to pay attention to your body and what choices seem to result in the most restful sleep. If long hours in bed still leave you exhausted the next day, then it’s worth researching whether you may be dealing with obstructive sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. In the afternoon and after midnight, you’ll want to watch out for sleepy motorists on the road.

According to NIOSH, peak hours for near misses and drowsy driving crashes are during these two-hour intervals:

 4:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. 

Midnight – 2:00 a.m. 

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

When you’re on the road, you’ll also want to watch for symptoms of drowsiness in yourself. Blinking and yawning frequently, missing an exit, forgetting the last several miles, and hitting the rumble strips are all warning signs that you need to stop ASAP. Don’t trust that “second wind” feeling that comes after your first wave of drowsiness; it has more to do with compromised judgment than any real alertness. You can feel ‘wired’ and still have a terrible reaction time. Opening the windows, loud music, and other last-minute tricks are no substitute for getting the sleep your body needs. If you need to nap during the day, most people can set an alarm and nap for 30 minutes without ruining their circadian rhythm and the following night’s sleep. Especially if sleep has always come easily for you in the past, it can be hard to take your nightly routine seriously. For better or for worse, getting a full night’s rest is an important part of your safety and success as an owner operator. Rather than getting discouraged or frustrated, look at troubleshooting your sleep as a guilt-free opportunity to invest in yourself and your own quality of life. When you’re well rested, there’s a good chance you’ll be happier, healthier, and better at your job. Good luck finding an exercise routine or diet that lets you achieve all those results in your sleep.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mercer and our culture, click the link below and start your journey.

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