Falling asleep on the job can be catastrophic for a security officer, both for the officer's company and career. But when an officer is scheduled for quiet overnight shifts, or if the job is a sedentary one, it's easy to drift to sleep. A few simple strategies help security officers stay awake all shift. Try them yourself or suggest them to the security officers you employ.
1. See the Light
Researchers have found that blue light is linked to alertness. That's why sleep experts warn against using electronics, which use blue light, before going to bed. An officer can fit a desk lamp with a bulb that uses blue light and is specifically designed to help you stay alert. If the guard station doesn't have a desk lamp, carry a portable blue light.
2. Stretch and Move
If you're stationed at a desk or guard booth and unable to leave, find creative ways to move your body and keep blood flowing. Move your feet in circles and stomp them on the ground. Drum your hands vigorously on your thighs. Roll your shoulders and lift your arms straight up and down again. Attach light weights to your ankles and raise your feet. Walk up and down stairs or around the building on breaks.
3. Exercise Your Mind
A security officer's duties can be dull. During downtime, keep your mind active to stave off sleep. If you're allowed, work on puzzles such as Sudoku or read fast-paced mystery novels. If your work doesn't allow these distractions, try actively using all your senses while you work. Focus on what you taste, notice what you can smell and listen intently to all the sounds in your environment. Using your senses this way helps keep your brain active.
4. Eat Smart
Avoid the temptation to grab sugary sweets when your energy lags. Sugar will give you a brief boost, but you'll quickly experience a drop in blood sugar that will cause fatigue. Big meals also cause energy drops. Eat small snacks every few hours to keep your energy consistent, and reach for whole grains, fruit and protein. These foods will help you stay awake.
5. Stay Hydrated
Guzzling soda and coffee all shift can make you shaky, cause your energy to crash and make you abandon your post for frequent bathroom breaks. Drink water instead to keep yourself hydrated and alert. Green tea is also a hydrating, caffeinated option. If you need coffee to stay awake, go ahead and indulge; just try to avoid caffeine in the last few hours of your shift so you can sleep when you're done, unless you're too tired to safely drive home without it.
6. Create Your Own Accountability
Seek outside help to keep you from dozing. Set 10-minute alarms on your phone or install an app designed to keep you awake. These apps offer different ways to help you fight sleep, such as making noises at random intervals. If there are other officers on duty nearby, exchange messages every so often to help each other stay alert or ask a friend who is awake while you're working to send you regular check-in messages.
7. Use a Guard Tour System
Installing a guard tour system protects a company and its security officers. Instead of filling out endless reports and forms, you can use professional guard tour software to log incident events and make reports. Guard tour systems also allow your employer to monitor your patrols, creating a record that proves you're doing your job. And knowing your patrols are monitored keeps you accountable to your employer, providing motivation to fight sleepiness.