Security professionals face many dangers on the job. Whether it is combative crowds, suspicious persons, thieves, or weapons, these are challenges that come with the job. However, one danger that doesn't come immediately to mind is actually a very common one: sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has many wide ranging and lasting effects, and can make things much more dangerous for anyone in any profession. According to the Harvard School of Sleep Medicine, the effects of extreme fatigue are considered more dangerous to drivers on the road than drivers who are intoxicated. Insufficient sleep has been a factor in some of the most well-known accidents over the last 30 years. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker in 1989, and even the Challenger space shuttle disaster all had one common factor: sleep deprivation. There is also a significant link between lack of sleep and medical errors in hospitals.
According to a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, doctors, specifically newly graduated interns, are typically expected to handle shifts of 24 to 36 hours. While the loss of life is clearly the most devastating consequence of any sleep-deprived accident at a workplace, there are significant economic costs as well. It's not difficult to imagine the costs of any litigious follow-up of any work related accident, but also the financial consequences of injuries, or time off needed to recover.
The Army's Surgeon General has concluded that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation affect about 70 million Americans each year and may increase the risk of stroke, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Veterans are at a higher risk for sleep disorders. Researchers at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington examined the sleep patterns of over 700 active duty soldiers, and found that the majority of the soldiers were suffering from some type of sleep disruption, which can lead to an increase in depression and other medical problems. These conditions not only put one's health at risk , but can also be significantly disruptive to daily life and relationships.
So how does the average worker, let alone a security professional, counter these hazards and perform exceptionally at their job? The universal advice is actually the best, which is to get more exercise, and make sure your diet is healthy. That alone won't do it, and without turning to medication, you can get back the healthy natural sleep your body requires. We've pointed out before that when working in security, caffeine and energy drinks are not a long term solution. Here are several ways to catch up on the sleep you need:
Make up the missed hours on your days off:
Security professionals have notoriously flexible hours, so a standard full weekend may not be available for you to catch up. If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the day or days you have off. Add an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have fully made up for the hours you missed getting healthy natural sleep.
Address long-term debt:
Remember the movie Office Space? The main character Peter Gibbons dreams of a time when he doesn't have to work, and looks forward to doing nothing. When this finally happens for him, he says "I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was absolutely everything I thought it could be." If possible, schedule yourself you own little getaway vacation with as light a schedule as possible, and few obligations. You don't need to travel to a fancy resort to give yourself a little vacation. Simply plan a day for yourself where you can sleep as much as possible, and then unwind. You should be able to get back into a normal sleep schedule where you aren't relying on an alarm clock.
Avoid backsliding into the same bad habits:
Once you've gotten into a good rhythm of sleep, and set a schedule you can adhere to, you should be able to get the required hours you need. According to the Harvard School of Sleep Medicine, the average adult needs 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night.