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Truckers and the art of sleeping well

Did you get eight hours of sleep last night? Chances are you didn’t.

And even if you did sleep for a long time, did you still wake up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep? You may need to sleep more like a trucker.

Yep, that’s right, a trucker.

A consultant at one of America’s largest logistics companies, DAT Freight and Analytics, says we could all learn a few lessons from truckers about length of sleep and the art of strategic napping.

DAT principal analyst Dean Croke – an Australian, as it turns out – told business media site Fast Company that it all comes down to sleep quality. That’s the difference between waking up refreshed after a half-hour nap and feeling poorly after a full eight hours in bed.

Mr Croke teaches sleep classes for truckers and shift workers to help them improve their sleep ‘quality’ with fewer hours in bed.

Well rested

“When you engineer sleep into a driver’s day, all sorts of good things happen,” he says.

“Well-rested drivers make about 10 per cent more miles per week if they’re taught how to sleep.”

Mr Croke says too often people confuse quality with quantity.

Sleep has two main phases, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep.

Non-REM sleep has four phases. Stage one you are falling asleep, stage two, three and four your eye movements stop, your temperature drops and you are deeply asleep.

In REM sleep your eyes move, your blood pressure and heart rate go up and your brain becomes active.

During your sleep, you cycle through both phases. Adults usually spend about one-fifth of the night in REM sleep and the four-fifths in non-REM sleep.

During non-REM sleep your body goes through a repair cycle and the immune system is boosted.

“Deep sleep deals with the fatigue. REM sleep deals with memory and mood, archiving the memories and flushing out the brain of the things it doesn’t need,” Mr Croke.

If you wake during one of those deep sleep cycles, you will have sleep inertia.

Nap strategically

“It takes about 20 minutes for the sleep inertia to kick out of the brain and then you can get going with the day,” says Mr Croke. “The timing of sleep is absolutely critical.”

Mr Croke claims the body is programmed to sleep twice a day; at night and again eight hours after you wake.

He says while five, 90-minute sleep cycles would be ideal, you can break them up, sleeping two cycles in a row, and three cycles later in the day.

He says the second sleep should be a 30-minute or 90-minute nap to take advantage of the sleep cycles and avoid waking during deep sleep. Which means you can nap ‘strategically’, like truckers.

He also recommends waking up at the same time each day to keep the same sleep cycle.

Studies have shown a lack of sleep can have a disastrous effect on your health.

Health Direct says that as well as affecting concentration and mood in the short term, over the long term a lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Do you enjoy a nap? Does it make you feel more refreshed or more tired? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: New tool to measure bone age may save lives

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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