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New Study Aims for a Better Night’s Sleep for Truck Drivers

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The NIOSH Total Worker Health® Program strives to protect workers by considering the whole spectrum of influences on worker safety and health. In addition to tangible work-related risks, such as handling hazardous chemicals or operating heavy machinery, these influences extend far beyond the workplace to the worker’s home and community. They include wages, workload, and stress, as well as the relationships between workers and employers, and even adequate sleep.

For long-distance truck drivers, inadequate sleep can be a problem. One way that companies address sleep is to assign drivers in pairs, so that one worker can sleep while the other drives. Sleeping in a noisy, moving vehicle, however, does not provide the same restful sleep as a stationary bed in a quiet room. The resulting fatigue can affect work performance and health, as inadequate sleep contributes to chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

To improve sleep quality for truck drivers, a new collaborative research study at the Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Washington1 is underway. Taking a two-pronged approach to the problem, the Tech4Rest Study is looking at the effects of an enhanced truck cab and a behavioral sleep health program on truck drivers’ sleep habits. For the enhanced truck cab, researchers are testing the sleep effects of a therapeutic mattress system and an active suspension seat to reduce whole body vibrations during driving and sleep periods. The behavioral sleep health program, Fit4Sleep, currently is testing different interventions, including physical activity, sleep training, and health coaching.

1 Funding for Tech4Rest is provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH; grant: U19OH010154) and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

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