The human body is capable of accomplishing much more than most of us could ever imagine. When put under extreme stress adrenaline often kicks in, these are instances when you see small women lifting cars off of the people who are trapped underneath. Unfortunately adrenaline, while good for short bursts of ridiculous strength, won’t help you stay awake in the middle of the night when you are completely drained with the “Z Monster” perched firmly on your back telling you it’s ok to close your eyes – just for a few moments. It’s during that time of weakness, when you nod off for what turns out to be an hour, when your security could be compromised and everyone who is depending on you for safety could be put in danger.
If looters are roaming the streets and police forces are thin or non-existent the need to have some sort of security up and alert during the night will definitely exist. Evil doers like to operate under the cover of darkness, and while they might not want to enter your home they could have other plans(e.g. siphoning gasoline from all the cars on your street). Right now you might be thinking you’d have no trouble pulling a night shift, perched near your second floor window peering out into the darkness and listening for strange noises. You would probably be right and there is no doubt you could probably pull it off successfully with a few cups of coffee. The challenge of staying awake takes on a different level of difficulty a few weeks after SHTF when the stress of keeping your family motivated and living from day to day has lent itself to a few hours of sporadic sleep per day. The cumulative effect of this sleep deprivation can be quite debilitating, causing hallucinations and a feeling of being drunk. Even the most menial tasks can become cumbersome and staying awake at night in order to pull security could be a bridge too far.
There really is no way to condition your body to accept sleep deprivation (read: making it so your body does not require sleep). Before you get all huffy and type in a response referring to operators who run missions for days with no sleep, that doesn’t mean their body was not fatigued. It is possible to train while in this condition so that one becomes familiar with what it is like to be sleep deprived, at that point consistent training will allow the user to fall back on muscle memory when tired.
You and I are not Super Duper Operators at the leading edge of the spear. Once SHTF happens we, the couch potato army, could be the only thing standing in between evil doers and our family (or community). This will be a time when falling asleep during our guard rotation simply will not be an option. Recognizing this what are some of the best ways to stay alert?
1- Use a buddy. This is probably the best method I have ever used in situations where I was absolutely dead tired. Talking to each other, nudging each other, taking turns catching some quick shut eye while the other STAYS AWAKE.
2- Be uncomfortable. Sitting on rocks, in the mud, in a hole filled with water (not recommended) or in a briar patch will make sleep less hard to come by. This versus pulling guard duty in a nice folding chair or on the side of a soft hill. If you are in your home sit on a bucket or stay standing, the “I’ll just sit on the couch for a minute” idea is the worst one ever.
3- Stay mobile. Get up and walk around if the situation permits. Do some pushups, jumping jacks or air squats.
4- Gum / sunflower seeds. This works reasonably well in that it keeps your mind and mouth stimulated. I’ve been known to go through 2 packs of gum in an evening, anything to stay awake.
5- Use a sleep rotation. When the body needs sleep, the best thing to do is to find a way to make that happen. Schedule a sleep rotation where some people are down while others are alert. 2-3 hour shifts seem to work best in these circumstances.
I guess I should take a moment to note some of the things I do not recommend doing.
1- Energy drinks / shots. Worst idea ever. Yes you will get an immediate rush but once you come down off of that rush (and it will happen sooner than later) it will be almost impossible to keep your eyes open.
2- Pills. Same concept as energy shots. Only good for a brief period of time, considering the potential long run of constant operations for weeks at a time this is a terrible idea.
3- Trusting yourself. I’ll just close my eyes, just for a minute. Famous last words…don’t do it!
4- Don’t break your neck!