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How security guards stay awake on the night shift

by Mark Miller 5 min read

Security guard

Photo by Collin Armstrong on Unsplash

It's a thankless job, but somebody has to watch over valuable property or sleeping innocents in the wee hours when the crowds go away.

Security guard. Rent-a-cop. Night watchman, to use the old style.

In between making rounds, as they monitor the security camera feeds, how do these guys stay awake? It sounds like kind of a boring job. At least, they hope it's boring or they could be a facing a situation.

Check out this post from a Reddit thread about security guard horror stories [1]:

Sh-t this is me right now. My company does short 30 minute patrols and I bump from site to site. Client pays per patrol. One of our sites has had 3 homicides in the past 6 months and the other has a pissed off drug dealer because we've been asked to target his corner of the complex because of transients sleeping in people's doorways. We drive away his business. Funny thing is he could sell right in front of me and theres not a thing I could do. Another site I had to master my reverse driving in .5 seconds because we apparently pissed off a tow truck driver by watching him do his job (from a good distance btw). He was driving a lifted f450 and we had a small Japanese car. He tried to hit us multiple times and ended up chasing us for a couple of blocks when I flashed my brights to get his plate. Sh-t gets crazy

Another Reddit commenter wrote in the same thread:

Also working graveyard shift, different security job. I was doing my rounds and as I approached a blind-corner, I would smell cigarette smoke. So, now I knew that there was someone(s) were in the area. I approach cautiously and get just to the corner when a young man scurries past me and darts towards the street. I jump back a little and try to regather my composure. That's when I turn the corner and an older man was struggling to put his pants back on. Coincidentally, that's when I lost my innocence, ala 'Sleepers'.

God forbid. Does everything have to be so unpleasant?

On to more pleasant topics

There are quite a few security guard stories at that ask/Reddit thread. But let us hope that every security guard has pleasant nights with little to report.

In any event, how do they stay awake?

For many types of workers, the night shift entails a struggle to stay awake. If you're a doctor scurrying around an emergency room or a police officer on foot patrol, the chances of falling asleep are slim to none.

But if you're a security guard in a small town or are on a low-activity watch and are on the graveyard shift, you might have a lot of trouble staying awake.

This video gives tips on staying awake and surviving the night shift.

So take some tips from security companies.

Trust Security and Fire Watch company says the first order of business is to make certain you get enough sleep before your shift begins [2]. That way, your chance of falling asleep on duty, and risk getting fired, is lower.

As we wrote in this blog [3], The World Sleep Society website [4] has 10 commandments of sleep that it publicizes on World Sleep Day. The site advises:

  1. Establish a regular bedtime and waking time.
  2. If you are in the habit of taking siestas, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
  3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime, and do not smoke.
  4. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  7. Use comfortable, inviting bedding.
  8. Find a comfortable sleep temperature setting and keep the room well ventilated.
  9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  10. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, avoiding its use for work or general recreation.

Try judicious use of caffeine

Caffeine in the right amounts and at the right time can help get you through a long shift without nodding off or becoming overwhelmed by drowsiness.

Of course, you might not want to fill up on coffee and lattes and other caffeinated liquids, but you still want that caffeine. Try Viter Energy Mints [5], with both caffeine and B vitamins. The tasty mints perk you up and freshen your breath.


Each has 40 mg of caffeine in a sugar-free mint, equal to about one-quarter of a mug of coffee. You can take one mint per half-hour or hour to get a steady stream of caffeine into your bloodstream, or four in quick succession to equal about one mug of java.

The trick to using caffeine and getting sleep

Caffeine is an essential weapon in the fight against drowsiness, especially if you have a caffeine habit. Don't worry about health effects of caffeine: Scientific studies have shown it to be beneficial.

People who work the day shift are advised to stop taking caffeine after the early to mid-afternoon. The half life of caffeine is about 5 to 8 hours, depending on body metabolism, weight, etc.

So if you have a cup of coffee or some Viter Energy Mints at 3 p.m., you will still have half the caffeine in your system at 8 to 11 p.m.

That much caffeine may interfere with sleep. It depends on what you are used to.

If you work the night shift, you need to time your caffeine consumption accordingly. Don't take caffeine right before your shift ends, so you can fall sleep when you go home.

How security guards stay awake

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

More alertness tips for security guards

Other tips from Trust and another company, Deggy [7], include:

  • Establish a routine and go for walks every half hour to hour. If you have a partner, take turns going on walks every half hour. Walking will do a lot to keep you from falling asleep. It'll get your blood moving.
  • Do some calisthenics, crunches, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc. This too will get your blood moving. Stand up immediately and move around if you find yourself nodding off.
  • If you get a break and are sure you can wake up in time, take a 20-minute nap. Do not take a longer nap, such as 45 minutes, because it can make you even more tired.
  • Use a blue light bulb in your office lighting. Blue light can help prevent you from falling asleep. Sleep experts recommend against using computing devices before sleep because the blue light is so stimulating.
  • Eat right: whole grains, fruit, and protein instead of junk food and sugary stuff that can give you a high that you will quickly come down from.
  • Get enough fluids so you stay hydrated. Many nutritionists say dehydration can cause drowsiness.
  • Occupy your mind with word or sudoku puzzles or exciting novels. Some guards do not have the luxury of taking their mind off the cameras, but if you do, ask around about exciting novels to read.
  • Study for the U.S. Postal Service test or another type of civil service exam. Or enroll in college and use your night shift to study. You just might land a better job and earn more money.


[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/8pbe2h/security_guards_of_reddit_what_are_some_of/

[2] https://protectedbytrust.com/2016/06/07/how-to-stay-awake-as-an-overnight-security-guard/

[3] https://www.goviter.com/blogs/viter-energy-blog/sleeping-longer-can-make-you-feel-more-tired

[4] http://worldsleepday.org/10-commandments-of-sleep-hygiene-for-adults

[5] https://amzn.to/3jb7Gwg

[6] https://www.goviter.com/collections/viter-energy-mints

[7] https://www.deggy.com/7-ways-security-officers-can-stay-awake-on-duty.html


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