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9-1-1 help me get more sleep: 8 tips for improving sleep during shiftwork

19 Jul 2021 8:17 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Sarah Saunders, Telecommunicator, Grays Harbor E-911, IPSA Member

Sleeping is one of the most important aspects of health and self-care. Sleep can be elusive under the best conditions, and when you add in shiftwork, stress, and life in general, it can be even harder to find.

It can be difficult to get sleep while the sun is out. These tips will help if you are new to shiftwork, new to the night shift, or need a reminder on how to thrive on shiftwork. Follow these simple tricks to help you live your best nightshift life with ease. 

  1. Leave the communications center lights on. It can be difficult to leave the lights on when it is dark outside and you are surrounded by computer screens, but the lights help trick your body into thinking it is daytime and time to be awake. For best results, avoid turning your communications center into a bat cave.
  2. Limit the changes to your new sleep routine. It is easier on your body if you are able to keep your sleep schedule throughout your nightshift rotation, even on your days off. The less major, frequent changes to your sleep pattern, the better your body will adapt to night shift, allowing you to get better sleep.
  3. Darken your rooms at home. Invest in good blackout curtains or blinds to limit the sunshine from coming in your room and allow you to sleep in darkness. The dark room lets your body know that it is time to sleep and will allow you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your night shift.
  4. Be consistent. This is important, and unexpected overtime or call-ins can be tricky, but make the effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is the best way to sleep well and stay healthy and happy.
  5. Take what you can get. Any sleep counts. Any sleep you can get is better than no sleep at all. This means even if you are able to catch an hour when you get home from your shift, a two-hour nap in the middle of the day, and an hour before you go to work, take it. Fragmented and interrupted sleep is better than no sleep at all.
  6. Turn off your electronic devices. You spend your days surrounded by multiple computer screens. Give your eyes and brain a break from electronics. For the best sleep, avoid looking at television, computer and phone screens, for at least one-hour before you go to bed.
  7. Step away from the caffeine. Dispatchers and caffeine seem to go hand in hand, but if you are already struggling to sleep on nightshift, your favorite dose of energy may be hurting you. The effects of caffeine can last up to twelve hours. If you are struggling to sleep during the daylight hours, avoid or limit caffeine while your body adjusts to your new hours.
  8. Shout it out. Finally, if you are working a new shift and changing your normal hours, make sure you tell your friends and family. You might even consider a sign for your door asking your delivery drivers or neighbors to not disturb you by knocking or ringing your doorbell. This will help you avoid distractions and interruptions while you should be sleeping.

Nightshift, especially in the communications center, can be tough. When you follow these simple tips, you should find sleeping will become easier and you will become better rested over time. To learn more, check out this information about nightshifts.

About the Author

Sarah Saunders first sat behind a dispatch console at thirteen years old and has been dispatching full-time since 2001. Throughout her career, she has worked in multiple roles in Arizona and Washington, including dispatcher, trainer, supervisor, training coordinator, tactical dispatch team supervisor, certified instructor, systems security officer and CISM team member. One of the recurring issues that she had to address, regardless of my role, was getting adequate sleep. If you have any tips to share or want to provide feedback, email me at

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