Staying Awake While on Guard Duty

staying awake

Don’t end up like this guy

So there are problems, civil disruptions and you have to stay up all night on guard duty.  How do you stay awake?  Staying awake has been a problem in the military and sometimes has resulted in the death of soldiers.  If you spend any time in the military (at least in the infantry) you probably have experience in this area.

The military may have some luxuries you won’t enjoy; like enough people, to have two men at every post or to only pull short shifts. But chances are there are very few of you and you are pulling a long shift by yourself, so staying awake becomes a problem.

I still remember the first time I had to pull guard duty in the middle of the night and it was not in a combat zone.  It was dark, lonely and boring.  While only a three hour shift it seemed to drag on forever.

So what are the tricks to staying awake?

  • Hopefully you have had a chance to sleep ahead of time, but let’s assume that you are sleep deprived and the threats are real.
  • If you have lots of people double your guards and stagger their relief times – one will be fresher than the other and they will help keep each awake. Shorten the guard duty to 2-hour shifts.
  • But you are short of people and pulling long shifts, so what are the tricks to staying awake
  • Drink lots of liquid. Whether it is coke, coffee or just plain water, it all helps
  • If you have MRE’s, chew on the contents of the instant coffee packs.
  • Take the Tabasco sauce from the MRE’s and rub it under your eyes, this is good for a little while.
  • If it is cold out take your jacket off, make yourself uncomfortable.
  • People have resorted to placing small pebbles on the ground and then kneeling on them.
  • Eat something
  • Remember why you are there, being scared can help you stay awake.
  • Think of your family and your responsibilities to them
  • Prayer
  • Whenever you get a chance to catch a few winks while not on duty do so, the less sleep deprived you are the better.

Try staying up one night and sit looking out the window with no TV or other distractions and you will soon understand just how boring it can get. Many of the problems of staying awake and alert, while on guard duty are in our heads.  Make up your mind you can do it ahead of time.

Howard

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7 Responses to Staying Awake While on Guard Duty

  1. markww says:

    No problem for me when I was over seas. I said I am going home and not going to die or sleep in the Nam war.

  2. Aves Bird says:

    Things I tried:
    1. Start smoking if you are not a smoker. You will feel awake and sick all night (just joking).
    2. Yes, drink lots of liquid. Lots, so that you actually need a toilet. Nothing keeps you more alert than the urge to relieve yourself in a situation where it is not really possible.
    3. I used to buy myself a slab of chocolate when I did guard duty at times when I was really tired and would pace myself with 10 minute intervals to eat one little block at a time. Actually I tried to see how long I could keep one block in my mouth without biting it.

  3. Jo says:

    Chewing on very minty gum or candy will also help keep you awake, something to do with the scent I was told and yes it works. I’d also recommend cold water splashed in the face and a pair of sound amplification ear muffs.

    • Collette Desmarais says:

      Jo – the water on the face does work – also, I’ve carried a drink or a cup with ice in it – if you can dip a washcloth in icy cold water and place it on your closed eyes and then on your face, that also works. Your suggestion for the sound amplification listening device is a really good idea too.

  4. Collette Desmarais says:

    I discovered a method for preventing sleep while driving late one night. I was driving alone, and to get from point A to point B necessitated driving in an ‘out-of-the-middle-of-nowhere’ type
    route with no street lights, no rest stops, no one. It was kind of
    creepy so I wouldn’t have felt safe to pull over in unfamiliar territory. I opened my car windows to get the wind blowing on me; turned the radio on; which worked for a few minutes, but then that drowsiness feeling returned. So, I slapped myself on the cheeks, first right then left cheek – not hard, just a slap. It seemed like it might relieve the drowsiness, so I did it; like; three more times, but harder each time. After the four slaps on each cheek, I was awake! So each time I’d feel the slightest drowsiness creeping on, I’d just slap myself again, and drowsiness would fade. I guess it’s the shock of the slap that is effective, but I arrived at my destination sound awake!

  5. Benjamin says:

    Tabasco sauce in the eyes! Ouch! Yeah I think that would do it!

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