Officers in Canada's police services have demanding schedules with unpredictable shifts, and staying healthy and well-rested can often be challenging in this environment. Luckily, by following a number of healthy habits regarding sleep, nutrition and exercise, police officers operating on a non-traditional shift schedule can maximize both their sleep and their health.
Can healthy habits help police officers balance workload?
Did you know self-care can help boost work performance? Police officers can stay sharp on the job by practicing a few regulatory habits. Everybody has a question. Are you curious about how Wilfrid Laurier University can help you benefit your community?
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Eight Healthy Habits for Police Officers Working Shifts
Keep to the same sleep schedule every day
While police officers working unusual shifts may be tempted to switch to a more typical sleep schedule on their day off, doing so can have a big impact on quality and quantity of sleep. Because training your body to be able to sleep during the day requires building new habits, any deviation from your routine can break these habits and leave you back at square one. Be as regular as possible with your bedtime and try to wake up at the same time every day to minimize disruptions to your sleep.
Practice proper sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the set of habits and behaviors that can help promote better quality sleep; maintaining good sleep hygiene is particularly important for shift workers such as police officers. Keep your room dark whenever your sleep, and invest in blackout shades if necessary. A white noise machine can help drown out daytime noises. Minimize the use of electronics around bedtime as their use can prevent proper sleep rhythms.
Be strategic about your caffeine intake
Caffeine can help make up for a poor night's sleep, but too much caffeine too late in your day may just prolong the cycle of sleeplessness. Limit your caffeine intake to the beginning of your workday to avoid disrupting your sleep.
Control your exposure to light
Our brains use light as a signal for wakefulness; this is why people tend to be alert during the day and tired at night. Police officers and other shift workers can use light exposure to help remain awake during night shifts. Keeping lights on whenever possible or using a light box -- a portable light that mimics daylight -- can help trick your brain into being more alert. Similarly, turn off lights at the end of your shift as you begin your transition into sleep.
Sleep is most effective if it is concentrated into one long stretch. Shift workers such as police officers often feel the urge to nap due to their unusual routines, but napping can actually be counterproductive for the tired shift worker. If you must nap, try to do so right before the beginning of your shift and limit the length of your nap to 20 or 30 minutes to prevent grogginess.
Keep healthy snacks available
While it is tempting to reach for a sugary snack that provides a quick boost of energy when you're tired, keeping healthy snacks at hand -- both at home and on the job -- will help maintain both your energy levels and your health. Fruits like bananas and apples, vegetables such as carrots and celery, and nuts all make excellent snack choices that are quick, easy and healthy.
Take advantage of slow cooking
Having a healthy meal ready whenever you get home from your shift can help protect your health while also saving time. By using a Crock-Pot, you can put some easy ingredients together before your shift and have a warm, nutritious meal ready for you when you get home.
Exercise in moderation
Exercise can help aid in better quality sleep, as long as you don't exert yourself too close to bedtime. Police officers and other shift workers should try to work moderate exercise into their days by stretching during breaks and taking the stairs. This physical activity can help produce more restful sleep.
Getting Your Bachelor's Degree in Policing Online
With unpredictable shifts and challenging schedules, police officers are often unable to obtain their degree in a typical classroom setting. Wilfrid Laurier University, however, offers a bachelor's degree program in policing that is fully online, with the ability to take your classes at any time of the day or night. For more information about Wilfrid Laurier University's online BA in Policing, please request more information.