Possibly the most difficult routine to set as an EMS shift worker, sleep is absolutely vital for effective performance. Though the ‘8 hours a night’ theory has been dispelled, many EMS workers simply do not get enough sleep. How often have you arrived for a shift and either you, your partner or both of you mention being tired? Quality sleep often needs active measures in place in order to occur.
Create a quiet, distraction-free sleep environment, ideally your bedroom. Ear plugs benefit someone who may wake easily or need to reduce noise. A ‘white noise’ device such as a fan, air-conditioner or white noise recording may be soothing and reduce other noise. Light must also be minimised, such as with the use of block-out curtains and blind-folds. Temperature should also be adjusted for comfort; typically slightly cool rather than warm. Aids include fans, air-conditioners, windows, adequate insulation, clothing and blankets or sheets.
Not to be forgotten; actually relaxing is equally important. You might have a cup of tea, eat something light, go for a short walk, or otherwise have something that helps you relax. There are many more things you can do; consider relaxing music, reading a book, coloring pictures (on-trend these days)…basically anything mindful to put your head in a good place! For those who really struggle, and everyone else really, meditation can work wonders. Meditation involves mindfulness and ‘letting go’ of concerns or stress, at least for the meantime to help you to un-wind. Meditation can take the form of anything from simply sitting with your eyes closed and mentally ‘observing’ things, to partaking in guided meditation. Perform an online search for ‘guided meditation’ and you will find many free videos and recordings in which a person takes you through a meditation session. Guided meditations often have a specific purpose, such as facilitating sleep, decreasing anxiety or general relaxation; find the right one for you!
Challenging rosters such as all night shifts and progressing from day to night shifts within one working week may be inevitable, and short of finding what sleep-wake patterns works best for you, there are other means to take which can drastically improve sleep quality short of reaching for a sleeping pill.