Why a good night’s sleep is more important than you think!

Sleep plays a valuable role in good health and well-being throughout your life. During sleep, your body is working to conserve healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times supports your mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety.  The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as an accident caused by your inability to focus), or it can harm you over time. Ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems as well as affect how well you are able to pay attention, react, work, and get along with others.

Here are just a few ways sleep affects you:

  • Proper sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills.
    While sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day by building new ways to help you learn and remember information. A good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning a new job, a new skill, or working on a new project, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills.
  • With proper rest you are more able to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
    Not only does lack of proper sleep effect your learning and creativity, but it also harms your ability to make wise decisions and pay attention which is damaging for day to day activities such as driving.
    Lack of sleep also may lead to short term memory lapses called “microsleep”. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake. For example, when you enter a room and forget why.  Many link this type of incident to aging but it is actually due to lack of proper sleep which happens to become more common as you get older. Microsleep can disrupt your work by causing you to forget important tasks among other issues. Also, this type of lapse inconfusionchaos.jpg awareness is shown to be a cause of many vehicle accidents.
  • Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
    Without restful sleep, people may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. Snap decisions are often made when we lack rest which result in negative outcomes from accidents to being convinced we are too miserable to continue fighting through the day.
  • Sleep depravation is extremely harmful to your body’s health as well as your mind’s.
    Sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity to name a few issues.Sleep helps you maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry or full. When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormone levels fluctuate which can make you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.
    Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
    Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy.  Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections, colds or allergies.
  • Recurring or intense headaches are usually caused by lack of rest. 
    In a large study of migraine sufferers, half said sleep disturbances contributed to their headaches. And those who slept only six hours a night on average had more frequent and more severe headaches than those who slept longer.

Getting enough quality sleep helps you function well throughout your day.  Everyone’s insomnia-man-400x266.jpgindividual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night.

 

Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they’re sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

What are some things that cause us to lose valuable sleep time?

  • Stress
    Common triggers include work related pressures, family problems, illnesses or dealing with a difficult situation in your personal life.  Usually the sleep problem disappears when the stressful situation passes. However, if short-term sleep problems such as insomnia aren’t managed properly from the beginning, they can persist long after the original stress has passed.
  • Food and Drink before bedtime
    Drinking alcoholic, sugary or caffeinated beverages after 6pm can effect your sleep as well as eating a heavy meal, sugary or spicy snacks after 6pm.
  • Too much activity within 2 hours of your bedtime can prevent your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. 
    For example, exercising in the evening or working on a project into the night will make you subconsciously prepare to stay more active for a longer period and leave you tossing and turning while you’re trying to sleep.  Your thoughts may or may not be directly related to the activity you were doing as you toss and turn, but are still a direct result of your previous activity.
  • Nicotine
    The intake of nicotine through tobacco smoking and smokeless tobacco within 2 hours before your bedtime will inhibit your ability to have restful sleep.
  • Interruptions and disruptions
    Environmental factors can play a huge role in some people’s ability to sleep.  Some people are considered “light sleepers” who are effected by even dim lighting or the sound of a breeze outside keeping them awake.  If the person next to you snores or the bed is not comfortable, this type of disruption creates difficulties sleeping as well. Or, obviously, when we are jarred awake by a loud noise or similar, this can rob many of hours of sleep while trying to recover and calm ourselves from the sudden event.

 

Sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. Studies have shown sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents.  While some of the items described above cannot be avoided, it is highly recommended you find a way to obtain proper sleep customized for your lifestyle as well as the basics.  So, to reiterate a few items discussed above and also add some new;
Here are some useful tips to help you get a better night’s rest:

  • If you are stressed, practice yoga, mediation or other relaxation methods that you are comfortable with before going to bed
  • Avoid eating, smoking or extreme activities after 6pm if at all possible. And avoid drinking anything other than water in this time frame as well.
  • If you are light and/or sound sensitive, use a sleep mask and/or ear plugs to help mask environmental disruptors from ruining your sleep.
  • Daily exercise is excellent for your well being for many reasons including enabling you to get better rest at night.  Just be sure your exercise is done earlier in the day to avoid restlessness later in the evening.
  • Maintaining a regular bed time is extremely helpful in maintaining proper rest.  Studies have shown that the average person needs 8 hours of sleep, so calculate your bed time around that period.

SB.jpgIn closing, sleep deprivation can be a miserable and harmful experience for you and those in your circle.  While it’s not necessarily easy to manage, we hope you have found some helpful information in this blog to manage your sleep habits and get more rest. If you found this blog useful, be sure to follow us for safety tips and more helpful information and share our blog with your friends.  If you have a health or safety topic you’d like to see covered in our blog, let us know!

Sweet Dreams,
Close Range Safety Training Academy

 

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What is Situational Awareness and Why Should I Practice it?

Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening around you.

You may think the elements around you are not critical, but at any moment they could become meaningful to the situation at hand if things turn in a negative direction.  As a comparison, think about driving and how quickly accidents occur – which is why defensive driving is so important. Situational Awareness is much like defensive driving but applied to your everyday life.

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None of us want to think about the possibility of a hostage situation when we go to the bank to cash our check or a gunman opening fire at the grocery store, but these things happen and practicing situational awareness is a key element to keeping you safe in dangerous situations.

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Here are 5 Steps to practicing situational awareness in your day to day life:

OBSERVE – What we view is what we typically think of when we think of observation yet what our mind sees may not always be accurate.  Our vision does not work in the way a camera does when a photo captures every element.  Our vision, instead, only sees what is of interest or in action.  For example, if you are at a baseball game you are only viewing the players in action even though the people around you are all doing things as well.  2 rows in front of you a guy may pick – pocket the gentlemen in front of him right before your eyes but at the same time as a historic home run that you were focused on. For this reason, true observation takes practice! 

Put yourself in a position for optimal observation. So whenever you enter an environment, put yourself in a position that will allow you to see as much as you can without obstructions. Locate all exit possibilities.  Take a mental note of the people around you to the best of your ability.  Try to memorize their sex, race, attire, build, and behaviors as well as the quantity of people (the brunette in the pink dress is busy on her phone, the bald guy third in line in a black hoodie looks antsy, there were about 10 people in line with me). Take a mental note in the parking lot to the best of your ability, for example: the parking lot was about 50% full, the car parked to my left was a black van with a NV license plate and to my right was a red hatchback with a CA license plate and there was a yellow truck parked at the loading dock running without a driver.  The take away point in observing is to try to absorb as much as possible that could be relevant to your situation – people, vehicles, exits, signs, issues, etc.

LISTEN – Our hearing is attuned to our surroundings and functions as our brain’s first response system by notifying us of things to pay attention to and fundamentally shaping our perception of what’s happening around us. The quickness and sharpness of our hearing evolved from its survival advantage. (Think about when you are in darkness, what senses do you rely on first: Hearing, feeling and smelling) But just like with sight, your ears can be listening to tons of sounds without your brain really registering them.  You can tune into more sounds than you usually hear by concentrating and trying to distinguish and pull out noises you’re usually “ear-blind” to.

Practice training your hearing by closing your eyes to isolate your senses to sounds and play an active video you are not familiar with.  Make a mental note of the sounds you heard while listening.  Open your eyes and note all of the sounds you heard and try to note what you believe was happening then watch the video to determine how well you did.  Keep practicing until you realize you have picked up all of the sounds. When you learn to isolate your senses, your senses become more in tune.

SMELL – In comparison to our senses, smell doesn’t get much attention but when you think of wild animals this sense is usually the key to their survival.  Granted we do not rely on smell to survive the way animals in the wild do, we have likely all encountered moments that our sense of smell may have saved us from danger – think of smelling smoke or a gas leak for example. As you know, your sense of smell has a memory.  You automatically recognize the scents of your favorite meals as well as fire.  These key memories can aid you in times of trouble.  When you smell something that alerts you, trust that instinct! 

TOUCH – This is the last sense required for situational awareness and truly only useful after you’ve observed and are suddenly in the dark or find yourself in the dark. So, when you are observing take note of textures and surfaces – particularly ones that could lead you to the exit.  For instance, if the floor changes from tile to carpet before the exit or if there is a glass top table near the exit.  Use these memories to aid you in feeling your way around should you find yourself in the same location but in darkness at any point. 

RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS – Once you’ve followed the first 4 steps it’s time to ask yourself some questions; What is going on? What is the general atmosphere or mood surrounding me? Does everything seem to be the natural activity and scenery for this place? Are people conducting themselves normally or is someone standing out?  

Some key behavioral signs to recognize are:

  • Most people are walking with purpose, have keys in their hands, are carrying items to and from somewhere. When none of that is going on, question the person’s presence and actions.
  • Look for people shifting their vision around the room or area. They could be determining target value, looking for police or anyone who might intervene, CCTV cameras and where their escape route is.
  • Watch for unnatural movements such as hidden hands or quick motions that appear unusual such as reaching behind one’s back, into their book, into their waist band etc.
  • Recognize predatory movements or actions used to gain a dominant position. For instance, if two people approach you apparently to ask you where something is and one steps to your side that’s a predatory move. If someone hovers at your 4-8 o’clock relative to you, question it. Be sensitive to any positioning that makes you feel vulnerable. If you’re walking and someone impedes your movement, take a quick step back to keep the person in sight and check your surroundings.

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Situational awareness is a mindset that you have to purposefully harvest. The goal is to reach the point that it’s a natural behavior. To get to that point, you have to practice it regularly. Starting today, remind yourself to look for entry/exit points whenever you enter a new building. Begin observing people and settings in public places and asking yourself the important questions for recognizing what stands out. Also, start creating action plans on what you would do if you see a possible threat. Don’t be paranoid, just conscious.

Practicing situational awareness goes a long way in keeping you from appearing like or becoming an easy target. So, pay attention, stay alert and be prepared!

To learn more about Situational Awareness, check out professional situational awareness trainer Patrick Van Horne’s blog here: http://www.cp-journal.com/blog/ 

⛈Driving in the Driving Rain⛈ Tips for Safe Commuting

As the song says, “It never rains in Southern California, but don’t they warn you? It pours, man it pours.

After one of our worst droughts in history, Southern California has been getting drenched lately with heavy rainfall and strong winds. Many of us aren’t used to this kind of weather so we wanted to share some very important safety tips about driving in these dangerous and unfamiliar conditions.

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  • Check your tires before driving in severe rain. Tire tread is what allows your tires to ALIGNEMNT.jpgadhere to the road, which is why it’s so dangerous to drive with bald tires. Without the right traction, you can skid, slide, and hydroplane easily in wet conditions. (Click here for a simple way to check your tires at home.) 
  • Take your time. Slowing down is the only way to keep your vehicle from hydroplaning. Also remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive is soon after it begins to rain, as oils on roadway make for slick conditions. Waiting a few minutes, rather than rushing to your destination, can be a safer plan when it is raining.
  • Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer.Anticipate gusts by taking special care when driving through areas prone to strong winds or when weather reports predict severe weather.
  • Turn your lights on. Turn your headlights on to help other vehicles see you, even in broad daylight. Be sure to check your lights regularly to make sure none of your lights have burnt out, and replace dead lights immediately. This includes headlights, brake lights, turn signals, tail lights, and running lights. 
  • Use and maintain your windshield wipers. You can improve your visibility in wet conditions by ensuring that your wipers are up to the job, and by using the right washer fluid. Replace poorly or not working windshield wipers immediately and maintain them annually to prevent them from cracking, breaking, or not sealing properly when you need them most. 
  • Avoid slamming on the brakes. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to slide forward, and you won’t be able to control the car. Hitting the brakes too hard can also force water into your brakes, making them less effective.
  • Approach turns slowly. Turning too quickly on a wet road can cause your tires to hydroplane, and this means you won’t be able to control the car, and could skid out. 
  • DO NOT use cruise control. Cruise control is another factor that can lead to hydroplaning. The weight of the car shifts slightly when you ease on or off the accelerator, and this helps the tires maintain traction with the road. But with cruise control, because the speed of the car is constant, there is no weight shift, and the car can lose traction.
  • Do not drive through deep standing water, deep flowing water or puddles that you are unclear of their depth. Driving through deep or moving water can be hazardous for a number of reasons, including that you could get stuck, stall out, damage the car or the electrical components, or be swept away. If you encounter these types of road flooding, turn around and find another route. In a case where the only route is blocked, pull over and wait out the flooding.
  • Be prepared if you start to skid or hydroplaneSkidding on a wet road can be particularly frightening, but the key is to remain calm, look where you want to go, ease your foot off the accelerator, and gently steer in the direction you want to travel. Avoid braking and never slam on the brakes. Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles (56 km) per hour, and when it happens your car may not react when you turn the steering wheel, and your back end may feel loose. 
  • Stay focused! When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to always pay attention to the road, other cars, and pedestrians. This is especially true in the rain, when you cannot see as well, and your ability to stop may be hindered by the slickness of the road.

We know that SoCal traffic is bad enough in good weather and most of us are in a hurry to get to work on time.  Driving in traffic is stressful and when it’s slowing you down it’s easy to get frustrated.  Please keep an eye on the weather reports and plan ahead to avoid the frustration or pressures of feeling like you need to drive faster than you should in inclement weather.  It’s always best to leave 15-30 minutes earlier than you do under normal conditions because your safety is more important than sleeping in or being slightly put out.

Stay safe, SoCal, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for regular safety tips and articles to keep you well and happy in the New Year.