Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours

VI. Personal Strategies to Promote Good Sleep and Alertness

  • first responders

    Unexpected emergencies require responders to provide critical services around the world. This may result in unusually long work hours.

  • The scientific community recognizes the challenge that responders face: the need to work long hours, possibly at night (when our body sets us up to sleep), and sleep during the day (when our body is normally active).
  • Getting enough sleep can be done; it often requires a concerted effort between responders and their managers.

Action steps before deployment

  • Practice relaxation techniques to train your body to relax quickly.
  • Pack an eye mask, a supply of soft earplugs, dark sunglasses, and clothespins (to keep drapes shut).
  • Pack healthy snacks to eat.
  • Talk with your health care provider about any health conditions and medications and how the deployment may affect you.
  • If you do not regularly use sleep medications or stimulants, but plan on using them while deployed, you may want to take a test dose before deploying to determine any unexpected adverse reactions.
  • If you are frequently very sleepy during the day or have trouble with sleep, see a sleep disorders specialist for an evaluation before you deploy.
  • If possible, plan and organize so you are well rested when you deploy to the emergency site.

“It’s really hard to believe that it’s the last night of my deployment. This past month was challenging for the spirit and my patience but certainly not a horrible experience. I worked with a fantastic team; we shared good and bad moments.”
– Quote from deployed Ebola responder

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Page last reviewed: April 1, 2020