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Oversleeping is NOT a waking up problem

Follow these going to bed tips to make sure you never oversleep and arrive late for your on-duty shift, training class or meeting


Sleep tip: If your thoughts race as soon as you hit the pillow, try visualizing a chest of drawers, opening a draw for each of your worries and packing them away until the next day.

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What’s the minimum number of hours of sleep required for cognitive function? How do you calculate sleep debt? Read more: The best-kept sleep secrets that can benefit EMS providers

Oversleeping or sleeping through an alarm is not a waking up problem. Oversleeping is a going to bed problem.

Sleep can help you learn better and faster, reduce the risk of error and injury, and perform at your best. The consequences of oversleeping and being late for school or work can include discipline, demotion, expulsion or termination. For young people, especially, making the switch from a free schedule of late nights, learning to get adequate sleep is a critical skill for professional and personal success.

Here are six tips for new hires, academy cadets or students to make sure they get out of bed and arrive on time to work, class, and meetings:

1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco before bed

Stimulants or depressants ingested or inhaled, in the hours before going to bed, can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

2. Follow a going to bed routine

Transition from working, exercising, gaming or lounging with a predictable set of steps that prepares you for sleep. This might include personal hygiene, light exercise or stretching, next-day meal prep, prayer, journaling or tidying up your living space.

3. Sleeping space is cool, dark and quiet

Turn down the heat, close the windows and minimize the intrusion of light into your sleeping space. If a fan or white noise generator is helpful to you, use one.

4. Sleeping space is for sleeping

Don’t bring screens – television, laptop, tablet, smartphone, gaming console – into your sleeping space. Any show, app or game is intentionally designed to reward continued mental and physical engagement.

5. Reading in the sleeping space might be OK

Some light reading, especially if it helps you transition from wakefulness to restfulness, might be OK. But make sure to have an end point, like a specific number of pages or chapters, of how long you will spend reading.

6. Pack away your worries and concerns

Sometimes I get busy brain at night and begin thinking about work and family concerns instead of sleeping. I have had success visualizing a chest of drawers, opening a draw for each of my worries and packing the worries away until the next day.

If you regularly struggle with falling asleep and sleeping for seven or more hours, discuss sleep health and habits with your physician. Finally, if you are exhausted at the end of your shift, take a nap before you drive away. Increasingly fire, EMS and police departments are dedicating quite spaces for napping or safe sleep rooms.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.