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Not sleeping well? 5 mind-soothing ways for first responders to get better sleep

Not getting adequate rest can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health

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It’s no secret that shift work is hard on your mind and body. Moreover, the stress and hypervigilance that your body and mind experience while on duty can and does bleed into off-duty life.

And the longer you’ve worked as a first responder, the more this dysregulation can affect all aspects of your physical and mental health. This not only translates into something like dealing with poor sleep, but it ultimately has adverse effects on things like your blood pressure and heart health.

But let’s tackle one problem at a time – starting with the lack of sleep. Did you know that being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10%? In the United States, you’re considered legally impaired with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher.

Let that sink in for a moment.

We already have research that shows how sleep loss negatively impacts police performance and officer safety. Let’s get ahead of this once and for all. But because there is no “silver bullet,” we’re starting simple with five mind-soothing ways you can get better sleep today.

1. Download the Calm app

Calm is currently rated as the #1 app for sleep and meditation. In the app, you can choose to listen to guided meditations, relaxing music, or soundscapes and its popular Sleep Stories, which are bedtime stories read by the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Harry Styles and more.

According to the company, 84% of Calm users who used the app at least five times per week saw improved mental health by using its meditation practices to reduce stress and gain more quality sleep.

Download the Calm app on the Apple Store or Google Play. You can try Calm free for seven days. After that, it automatically renews for either $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Without purchase, you can still get access to daily meditations.

2. Check out the Headspace app

Do you want to feel less stressed in less than two weeks?

According to Headspace, you can feel 14% less stressed in just 10 days by using their mindfulness and meditation app. With the app, users learn how to relax, manage stress, find focus and release tension.

Here are some other stats from the company:

  • 19% of users noticed a decrease in anxiety symptoms after 8 weeks
  • 32% saw a decrease in their stress after one month
  • 29% said their depressive symptoms decreased after 8 weeks
  • 11% noted an increase in resilience after 30 days
  • 22% observed an increase in their focus after just one session

Download the Headspace app on the Apple Store or Google Play. You can try Headspace free for seven days. After that, it automatically renews for either $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

3. Are you a fan of white noise? Get your Zs with the Noisli app

Noisli’s ambient sounds may help you relax before going to sleep. The app is mainly used to help drown out noises to create a better environment for relaxing and sound sleep. Some users even used the app to mask symptoms of Tinnitus, a ringing noise in one or both ears.

Download the Noisli app on the Apple Store or Google Play for $1.99.

4. Relax with ASMR

Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is a term used to “describe a tingling, static-like or goosebumps sensation in response to specific triggering audio or visual stimuli,” according to Nebraska Medicine. For some people, ASMR helps them relax, feel calm, and fall asleep faster and more soundly.

If you type in “ASMR videos” on YouTube, a wide array will pop up, including videos of people talking softly, tapping, typing or humming. You’ll even come across some applying makeup or giving haircuts.

This type of relaxation method isn’t for everyone, but don’t knock it until you try it.

5. Listen to your favorite podcast

Just like reading a book, listening to podcasts can help you relax and unwind after a long, stressful shift.

And you don’t need to listen to sleep podcasts to get a better night’s rest. You can listen to a variety of podcasts – whatever piques your interest.

But for good measure, here are just a few tips:

  • Listen with your phone screen either dimmed or turned off. The light will interfere with getting deep sleep.
  • Turn down the volume – it’s more conducive to sound sleep. And if you’re sleeping with a partner nearby, consider listening through earbuds or even a headband-turned-speaker.
  • Don’t listen to anything too intense. This means no true crime podcasts while you’re trying to catch some Zs. Your mind is already overactive; don’t add onto it. Maybe save those podcasts for the drive to work.
Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.