June is Men’s Health Month. It’s a friendly prompt for blokes all over New Zealand to take a look at their health - get onto that overdue doctor’s check-up, clean up the diet a little, or learn a bit more on managing common health issues for men.
While we regularly check and maintain our vehicles, Men’s Health Month is a good reminder to focus on the wellbeing of the person behind the wheel. When it comes driver safety , good health supports good driving, and the opposite is also true.
There’s one behaviour that will impact driver safety, no matter how carefully a driver handles the vehicle; sleep.
Facts from the Ministry of Transport highlight the issue:
· In 2016 fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in 28 fatal crashes, 119 serious injury crashes and 438 minor injury crashes.
· The total social cost of crashes involving driver fatigue was about $291 million.
· Over the years 2014 to 2016, driver fatigue was a factor in 12 percent of fatal crashes.
The three main causes of fatigue are poor or shortened sleep, the influence of circadian rhythms (that drowsy afternoon feeling from 3pm-5pm), and longer hours spent driving or working. It’s important for driver safety that vehicle operators have adequate rest, and a good night’s sleep.
If your sleep is less than satisfying, try this:
- Get into a routine of heading to bed at the same time. Try using a phone alarm to remind you.
- Leading up to bedtime, relax away from your phone or computer. Take a hot shower, have a hot drink, read a book or listen to some music.
- Turn off electronics at the wall to avoid stand-by lights in your room.
- If things are playing on your mind, write them out on paper for you to address the next day – not before bed.
- Stop drinking caffeine after midday, this includes coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and chocolate.
- Cut out alcohol before bed – it leads to a more restless sleep and can leave you wide awake at 4am.
Eating more of the good stuff
The food we eat fuels our bodies. It can affect energy levels, moods, sleep and our ability to fight off sickness. With winter upon us, and the colds and flus that go with it, it’s important to clean up your diet. Make some simple swaps – fried food for fresh food, soft drinks for water – and bulk up your vegetable intake – hearty soups, stews, and roasts can be packed with veges.
With a little planning, you can have healthy snacks on hand to keep you fuelled. Some ideas for the road or office are:
· Grainy crackers with hummus, marmite, cheese or peanut butter
· Boiled eggs
· Popcorn – low butter version
· Gherkins, olives and pickled onions
· A can of tuna
· Trail mix or nuts
· Fruit and veges which are easy to eat on the road include apples, bananas, stone fruit, cherry tomatoes, raw green beans, mandarins, pears, carrots
· Yogurt – pop it in a bag with a frozen water bottle
Stretching out the muscles
Whether you’re spending long hours at the wheel or hunched over at your desk, a simple five-minute stretch can get some blood flowing, help destress you, and keep you alert. The Road Safety Truck website suggests some excellent exercises that drivers can do with a resistance band. There are also short stretch videos on YouTube including this one for drivers, and here’s one for stretching in a chair.
Or try some of the simple stretches below:
Neck, shoulders and arms
· Make circles with your shoulders - forwards and backwards.
· Roll your head slowly around from left, to chin, to right, to sky. Repeat in the other direction.
· Clasp your hands behind your back and lift them out and away from your body.
· Face a wall, bring one arm straight up and place that palm on the wall, then turn your body and feet away from the palm until you feel a stretch.
· Stand in the middle of an open door, with your arms on either side, and lean forward until you feel a stretch through the front of the chest and shoulders.
· Reach your arms above your head toward the sky and stretch up onto your toes.
· Let the weight of your head slowly pull you down into a back roll until your arms are dangling, then roll slowly back up.
· Spread your legs, lift your elbows, and twist from side to side.
· Sitting on a bench or chair, lift one leg, bend the knee and place the foot on your other knee (switch sides after 30 seconds or so).
· Do some lunges, with one leg forward and bent, and the other back and straightened.
· Holding onto something, lift your heel to your butt and then grab that ankle, stretching out the quad muscle.
Safety-focused drivers are productive, boost business reputation, and reduce the risk of vehicle damage. You can use data to push better driving performance through benchmarking results.
For more health tips and information on general men’s wellbeing, head to the Men’s Health Month website.