Difficulty Sleeping? Here Are Some Tips

Difficulty Sleeping? Here Are Some Tips

Published on May 18, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

First responders shoulder the burden of helping others in times of desperation and crisis. They fill a vital role in society, knowing full well the psychological toll developed in the line of work.

To pursue a career as a first responder is to knowingly welcome traumatic experiences into one’s daily routine. Increased exposure to traumatic scenes can, among many other side effects, disrupt sleep patterns.

Firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and other first responders, are highly susceptible to numerous sleep disorders, including but not limited to: sleep apnea, insomnia, and work shift disorder. Typically, these disorders go unnoticed until first responders seek treatment for anxiety, cardiovascular health issues, and/or diabetes.

According to a 2015 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM), over 35% of firefighters screened positive for a sleep disorder.


Given the widespread prevalence of chronic sleep loss among first responders, it may feel overwhelming to remain dedicated to addiction recovery. Many first responders turn to alcohol and substances as a means to self-soothe.

The stress-inducing combination of low-quality sleep, exposure to trauma, and long or unusual hours wear down brain function to a critical point, threatening the lives of first responders globally. Among the primary health risks that those with poor quality of sleep face, suicide poses the highest risk to survival. 


The fight for first responders dealing with both alcohol and/or substance addiction alongside sleep deprivation is one of life and death. Therefore, practicing healthy habits to assist sleep habits should be treated as a top priority issue for all first responders.

If you or a loved one is either a first responder and/or in addiction recovery, here is a list of ways to implement and empower healthy sleep habits. 



The best way to improve your sleep habits begins with a healthy diet. Food, drink, and sleep form a complex relationship, where all three factors rely upon one another.

The nutrients you consume supply your brain and body with fuel to repair itself. Sleep conserves your body’s energy while also repairing connections made within the brain.

Foods high in sugars like glucose and sucrose can impair one’s ability to naturally get tired. Moreover, late-night snacks tend to inhibit restful sleep.

Experts recommend eating dinner several hours before falling asleep so the digestive system isn’t rushed. If you feel hungry late in the evening, try sticking with carbohydrates, or dairy. 


Limiting Chemical Consumption

Nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants ingested too close to bedtime will result in disruptive sleep patterns. Essentially, these chemicals function to prevent adenosine (a chemical known to cause cell inactivity), reducing the feeling of needing to sleep. In effect, a cup of coffee does not wake you up.

It prevents you from experiencing weariness. Other stimulants act in a similar fashion, including, several hours after consuming alcohol.

Consequently, prioritizing sobriety will lead to more restful sleep. In this way, the hard work done through recovery promotes healthy sleep habits, which then in turn positively impact mental health. Here, we see a positive feedback loop of healthy habits begetting healthy habits.


Create a Space Conducive to Healthy Sleep

After a long day of work, the room environment leading to ideal rest conditions probably aren’t the first thing on your mind. However, setting the temperature between 60-75ºF, limiting light and sound exposure, and maintaining air ventilation significantly impact one’s quality of sleep.

Everyone is different, so find out how your body responds under differing conditions, and make it a point to design a space suitable for your needs. 


Limit Screen Time Before Falling Asleep

One of the healthiest rules for people to set for themselves these days involves self-monitoring and limiting screen time. The blue light our eyes absorb from various electronic devices demonstrably alters human circadian rhythms, or the internally regulating sleep-wake cycle.

Something as simple as looking at your phone fifteen minutes before bed has the potential to interfere with natural sleep cycles. If possible, try to honor a “no phones in bed” rule.

For many first responders, they may be on-call for large parts of the day. If this is the case, ask a roommate or co-worker if they can assist in notifying you of work-related communications in order to optimize the quality of sleep while remaining on-call.


These tips are meant to spread awareness of methods to improve sleep habits. There are many helpful tips not included here, such as exercise, setting consistent bedtimes, and limiting naps to half-hour intervals.

In a perfect world, one could read this list and flawlessly execute the changes necessary to positively impact the routine of each reader. In practice, we are all responsible for the decisions we make, and can take ownership of only these choices: past, present, and future.

There will be days where we honor our recovery with mindful sleep habits, just as there will be days we fall short. Remain patient with yourself.

Growth can be slower than we might prefer. Still, each of us is actively growing. You have the strength and capacity to will that growth into healthy, worthwhile channels.


Alcohol abuse can spiral out of control quickly and adversely impact your health, relationships and career, but heavy drinking and addiction can be harder to recognize than other forms of narcotic abuse. At First Responder Wellness, we know that alcoholism doesn’t develop overnight.

Often, there is an underlying issue behind the desire to drink, whether a past trauma, mental health concern, or an inability to cope with stress and the relief that alcohol temporarily brings makes it even harder to stop or cut back use. If you or your loved ones are ready to begin living alcohol-free lives, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at 888-743-0490.