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Fighting Fatigue

Security, in its very nature, requires officers to stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Holidays, nights and weekends are no exception, and are often just another day on the job for most officers. An unfortunate side effect of these types of long and irregular hours is fatigue.

Fatigue is the condition of being physically or mentally tired or exhausted. Extreme fatigue can lead to uncontrolled and involuntary shutdown of the brain.

Fortunately, there are ways to fight fatigue:

• Get eight hours of sleep before starting work.
• Sleep at the same time each day. If you rotate shifts, establish clockwise rotations (from day to evening to night). Clockwise rotating makes it easier to go to sleep when you go to bed.
• Take all scheduled work breaks. A snack or exercise during the break will refresh you.
• When trying to sleep during the daytime, find a cool, dark, quiet location. Use earplugs, soft music, or a fan to block out noise.
• See your doctor about sleep disorders, medications for illness, and using bright light on the job or during waking hours.
• Eat a well-balanced diet beginning the “day” with high protein foods and ending with carbohydrates. Do not eat great quantities before bedtime; they may cause trouble sleeping.
• Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. These substances cause sleep disturbances.
• Walking, stretching, and aerobics can help you stay awake. Exercise will give you stamina and help you to fall asleep later.
• Work carefully and very methodically, always following proper procedures.

When you’re fatigued you will make errors in judgment. Your mind or eyes can be off task and you can make a critical error. For security officers, professional diligence and discipline begins well before the shift, including getting your body the sleep and rest it needs.