Making Quality Sleep a Priority in Your Agency
Date:Friday May 21, 2021
Sleep may feel like something that is entirely in the purview of your employees – whether they sleep at the station or when off duty, first responders tend to make time for sleep on their own. However, the benefits of restorative sleep would convince any agency to make sleep a bigger priority.
Many of the traits that make first responders go from good to great are dependent on truly restorative sleep. Studies have shown that inattention due to sleepiness can cause major errors in judgment or physical tasks, so making a strong effort to promote good sleep hygiene can have demonstrable benefits for your agency.
If your employees occasionally sleep on the premises, like firefighters, you can make physical adjustments to spaces to make them better sleep environments. From offering white noise machines and blackout curtains to create a good sleep environment, to providing comfortable beds and pillows based on the requests of your team, you can help them do their jobs better by getting the sleep they need.
You can also share resources from trusted first responder sources, acknowledging the challenges of getting adequate restful sleep when working long shifts or stressful days. Letting team members know that sleep disorders are common among first responders but that you don’t want that to be the case for your team can be key. Resources from the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project may help you and your team.
Finally, bringing in an educator who can start the conversation may be a great first step. Companies like First Responder Sleep Recovery have tailored programming that can help first responders recognize the negative results of their lack of healthy sleep and make a plan to improve their sleep over time. However, any trained psychologist or sleep consultant is likely to be able to create a more informal presentation that can start an open-ended discussion among team members about how everyone at the agency can get better sleep.
One of the most important ways you can help is by shifting the perception that bad sleep is just part of the job. While there are certainly factors that can make good sleep harder, assuming that everyone will just sleep poorly while working at your agency makes it hard to prioritize. Bad sleep cannot simply be ignored as an occupational hazard, and as a leadership team member, you can be part of finding sleep solutions.
More Resources to Protect the Sleep Your Team Needs:
- Psychology Today addresses the lack of sleep prevalent in first responder teams.
- Police1 and FireRescue1 shares concrete tips to improve police officer and firefighter sleep.
- Harvard explores various reasons why sleep may be interrupted at home, which can lead to new and better sleep habits.
- Getting to know Sleep Disorders can help first responders pinpoint what help they need.