How to Stay Awake on Duty, Then Get Some SleepBy Calibre Press | Nov 4, 2019
As we mentioned in our earlier article, These Can Kill Cops, lack of sleep and reduced alertness can pose a serious threat to you. One of the usual suspects that contribute to cop drowsiness are shift changes. They’re inevitable, challenging and can, if not appropriately handled, be dangerous.
With that, here are some tips for staying alert on duty and then getting sleep after a shift change.
To stay alert on patrol:
Expose yourself to frequent blasts of fresh air by opening the unit windows and keeping the vents open.
Pull over and get out of the squad every once in a while to stretch and stimulate blood flow.
Make a conscious effort to look around to help avoid “zoning out.” Try checking your car mirrors and instrument panels at regular, more frequent intervals.
If you’re working midnights, walk into well-lighted places at certain points in your shift. The bright light will help compensate for the lack of sunlight and can help you reinvigorate.
Eat right. Nutrition experts have suggested that eating foods like pears, grapes, tomatoes, apples, nuts, and raisins (all high in the mineral Boron) can help increase alertness. Eating fast foods and drinking coffee will temporarily increase your alertness but can cause problems when you’re trying to get to sleep after your shift.
Chew gum. (Try it. It works.)
When it’s time to sleep:
Wear sunglasses on the way home after a night shift. Even small amounts of sunlight can trigger your body into believing it’s time to wake up when in fact, for you it’s time to go to sleep.
Give yourself a chance to mentally and physically wind down after a shift. Deep breathing and meditative-type relaxation can be very helpful. Also, try this trick: Designate a period (maybe 30 mins.) as your “worry time.” Make lists of the things you need to do, create plans to get them done and when your 30 minutes is up, STOP THINKING.
Don’t use alcohol as a means of making yourself tired. Although you may feel like you’re helping yourself relax, you’re actually increasing your chances of experiencing fragmented, restless sleep.
Don’t go to bed stuffed or starving. Eat right at the right times and avoid eating just before you’re scheduled to get off duty or just before you go to bed.
Start and follow a sequential routine before going to bed (put on your pajamas, then brush your teeth, then…etc.) no matter what time of day you’re hitting the sack. This routine becomes a cue for your body to start getting tired.
Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. A set of high-quality window shades that block out all incoming light can be a healthy investment.
Set your alarm, then hide it along with your watch. Time pressure can put a serious strain on efforts to get to sleep. The less tempted and able you are to glance at the time, the more likely you are to relax.
Keep your room at a comfortable temperature. It seems simple, but it’s very important. If you’re too hot or too cold, you’re more likely to experience agitated sleep.
Try using white noise, like a fan or a “sleep sound” machine, to filter distracting outside daytime noises.
If you can’t sleep, get out of the bedroom. You need to be sure your body recognizes the bedroom as a place to sleep, not a place to toss, turn and worry. Go to another room—preferably a very dimly lit location—and try relaxing there. Read. Turn on mellow music. Use a calming visualization. Whatever slows you down. Then as soon as you feel yourself getting sleepy, go back to bed. Don’t fall asleep where you are.
After you’re finished sleeping, get up promptly. Decreasing the amount of time you’re awake in bed will increase your ability to fall asleep when it’s time.
Sleep well. Stay safe.