During a site visit with one of our security guards at a construction site in Baltimore, MD, I had a conversation with a security guard about ways to stay awake during long boring overnight shifts. It was interesting to see that we each had our own methods of staying awake. Security guard service is designed to protect good people, place and things from bad people. Unfortunately, bad people tend to do bad things at night. As a result, most security details involve overnight service. It is interesting that security companies expect guards to stay awake while on duty late at night but seldom do they give suggestions on how to stay awake. No security officer wants to go through the process of creating a resume and going through the hiring process to get fired for sleeping on the job. At our security company, we are always trying to help our guards perform their duties to the highest levels. The trick is staying awake and alert during the downtime so that if something happens, you are ready. Therefore, it is important to have a strategy in place to keep yourself alert. Here are some suggestions for ways to stay awake during overnight security guard duties.
1. Getting Enough Sleep
This idea may seem obvious, but for you to stay alert during an overnight security job, it is important to get enough sleep during the day. When you first start this job, it may be difficult to change your sleep pattern. However, it is worth your time to exercise longer to wear yourself out enough to fall asleep and get your needed eight to ten hours of rest each day.
2. Create a Routine
Sitting for the entire length of your shift is not healthy nor is it conducive to staying awake. Taking a walk every hour or hour and a half will stimulate both your mind and your body. Find out where you can walk during your shift and still stay true to your job. If you have a partner, you can trade off and walk every half hour to keep alert.
3. Stretching & Calisthenics
Similar to walking, doing calisthenics periodically throughout your shift will keep the blood pumping. A few jumping jacks, arm rotations or pushups work wonders. Even if you need to stay in a small area, you can do small-movement exercises to keep your blood flowing and your brain stimulated.
4. Take a short nap
Even if you are able to sleep in it is always a good idea to find the time to take a brief nap. Some experts say a nap as short as 20 minutes is better than a cup of coffee. Do not nap for longer than 45 minutes. Naps over 45 minutes can make you more tired. A brief rest is an excellent way to give your mind and body a quick charge to get you ready to work. You may find it helpful to also read this great article about the benefits of power naps.
5. Practice Incident Scenarios
Ask yourself, what would I do if___(insert situation here)_____happened? You then put yourself through the steps required to handle that situation. It is also a very good idea to practice patrol techniques and report writing. Why not sharpen your skills and kill boredom at the same time? Try it, it works.
6. Read reports
Read incident reports and patrol logs from other officers who have worked your job location. You will often find interesting stories buried inside the log books. In many cases, you will discover incidents that occurred which you were not aware of. These reports can serve as reminders of why you are there and the importance of your job.
7. Stimulating Beverages
Coffee and other stimulating beverages such as 5-hour energy drinks can help keep you alert especially on nights that you haven’t gotten enough sleep during the day. Be careful of which brand of beverage you drink, because those that are loaded with sugar will cause a crash an hour or so after drinking. You are better off eating protein and drinking protein drinks throughout your shift to stay alert and focused.
Staying awake without coffee
Some people choose to use coffee to stay awake. Studies have found that only provides a temporary solution and in some cases can compromise your health. Below is an infographic with some great ways to stay alert without coffee.