Persevering Through the EMT Night Shift

HealthcareNovember 13, 2013

The EMT night shift can be difficult, because working during the nighttime requires people to reprogram their body's natural sleep rhythms. A lack of restful sleep can lead to problems with one's memory and focus, which in turn leads to more accidents and mistakes, as well as a tendency to be absent from work.

Humans are programmed to be diurnal, which means that they are awake during the daytime and asleep at night. Irregular sleep schedules can be mentally and physically draining if you do not have effective coping methods.  If you are scheduled for night shifts at work, here are a few things that you should keep in mind.

First, after your shift, make it a point to avoid bright lighting. If your shift ends in the morning, try to wear dark sunglasses on your commute home. Choose a quiet room, preferably one with room-darkening curtains.  Turn your phone off if you are able to, and minimize any distractions as much as possible.

After you wake from your sleep, expose yourself to bright light, as this will help to trigger your body to wake up. Limit your caffeine to the beginning of your EMT night shift. Any caffeine you drink mid-shift or even a couple of hours before you leave work will limit your ability to sleep. 

It is also important to exercise regularly to maintain your physical fitness. Try to find the most optimal time to squeeze in exercise, perhaps one to two hours before going to work, but never before you attempt to sleep. The US National Library of Medicine has an excellent article entitled, "Main Effects of Sleep Disorders Related to Shift Work," if you are interested in learning more about this issue. 

With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 33 percent growth in this field through the year 2020, now is an excellent time to pursue a career as an EMT. You can likely expect to be scheduled to work the night shift, but it shouldn't steer you away from this field as long as you know what to expect and understand how to take care of yourself.

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