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Truck drivers may not be as safe if they sleep during the day

Safety advocates have been concerned with the amount of sleep commercial truck drivers have been getting. Previous studies have reported that many commercial trucking accidents have been caused by unsafe commercial drivers, many who did not get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.

The concerns over the safety of commercial truck drivers led to many studies on how many hours commercial truck drivers can drive until they are required to get some rest. With public safety advocates and the commercial truck industry balking at each other's claims regarding the appropriate amount of sleep, a new study is sure to set fire to the debate again.

A new study by sleep scientists at Washington State University found that a split sleep schedule is better than getting consolidated sleep during the day. The study compared a split sleep schedule where drivers slept from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. to getting 10 hours of sleep during the day instead of at night.

The study found that getting 10 hours of sleep at night was best for truck drivers but the split sleep schedule was better than getting 10 hours of sleep during the day. Researchers found that nighttime sleep provided the most sleep, with 8.4 hours. Split sleep provided 7.2 hours and the daytime sleep provided 6.4 hours.

They said that the different sleep schedules did not impact a difference in their driving performance but they did report that sleepiness and blood chemical levels were increased in drivers who slept during the day.

Researchers studied the effect of sleep on commercial truck drivers to see if split sleep was as beneficial as consolidated sleep. They studied the impact it had on driver safety, performance and long-term health of truck drivers.

The current rule by the FMCSA allows for a split schedule but requires one period of at least eight hours of sleep and another period of at least two hours of sleep. The study may have an impact on future sleep rules for commercial truck drivers issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Source: Trucking Info, "Split Sleep Schedule Found Better than Daytime Sleep," Oliver B. Patton, Jan. 22, 2013

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