We cannot live without sleep. The normal person requires 7-8 hours of sleep per day to function normally. For truck drivers, shift workers and company car drivers, not getting enough sleep can lead to attention difficulties, slow reaction times, slow thinking, erratic speed control and sloppy steering.
There are a lot of myths around regarding getting too tired while driving and the facts are that cold air on your face will not keep you awake. Drivers have tried a variety of other myths with no gain, such as listening to the radio, chewing gum, stretching your legs, or just simply willpower. There are drivers that feel they have been this tired before and can cope. The facts are that when you are sleepy, you over estimate how alert you are and your judgment becomes poor.
Just the fact that you are determined, will not stop you from falling asleep at the wheel. Nodding off or microsleeps become uncontrollable and inevitable. Also remember that the older you get the harder it is for your body to cope with shift work. One of the most important things to know when on the road, is when to take a break. If you are fighting to keep your eyes open, it is time to stop. If you find it hard to concentrate, it is time to stop. If you are stretching, yawning, head nodding or adjusting your driving position, it is time to stop.
You are nearing the end of your journey, but you are experiencing signs of fatigue, it is time to stop. Many accidents happen close to your destination. Do not be tempted to push on and attempt to make it those last few miles, stop and take that break.
When you do get home or stop to rest, get the best sleep possible before starting another shift or trip. If you are doing shift work, try to get as much sleep as you would if you did not have to go back to work. Talk with your family in order to make plans to provide adequate sleep. When you go home in the morning, do not try to delay this sleep until later in the day, because too many things can happen to prevent you from getting the sleep you need. Above all, listen to your body. If you feel sleepy and time allows, by all means sleep.
Remember that fatigue has biological causes and that your body clock does not adapt to night work. There is not a single simple answer to fatigue problems, you have to find the one that works for you. Fatigue causes more than 20% of the highway accidents and is the most common cause of accidental death of truck drivers. Shift workers are twice as likely to have an accident at work. Figure out the best system for you in order to get the rest needed and be safe.