Carlos Gonçalves, INEM (National Medical Emergency Institute) ambulance crew member, works two to five night shifts per month, which makes him especially aware of sleep hygiene habits. He does not sleep much in the morning to be able to sleep at night and he tries to recover the lost sleep time whenever possible.
How many night shifts do you work every month as an INEM ambulance crew member?
Two to five.
What do you do in order to recover?
The day after the night shift I sleep in the morning just the enough to endure the rest of the day. This way I am able to sleep the following night.
Does it somehow affect your family or social life?
I am currently living with friends. I have lived with a partner and shift work was not a problem. I even think that the existence of “individual moments”, which are better achieved with shift work, is healthy for a relationship. In my social life, I only feel mismatches when I want to take part in activities with friends and I cannot, because I have different schedules from the majority. But there are also reverse situations, where I actually feel that I am lucky to be able to do things at times when those who work in “normal times” cannot.
Which sleeping patterns/behaviours do you adopt?
I sleep more hours whenever I can, to make up for the lost hours.
Have you ever dealt with emergency situations related to sleep disturbances, night terrors, sleepwalking, restless legs syndrome, etc?
Only when symptoms are mistaken for cardiac syndromes.
Are there many false alarms at night because people are more restless – due to insomnia, for instance – and interpret some signs wrong, particularly in relation to heart problems or other conditions?
There are a few – mainly palpitations and chest pain, which people associate with heart problems but which actually result from anxiety situations.
You have received special training in order to deal with burnout situations. Insomnia is often a warning sign of this syndrome…
We do not directly attend to burnout situations in the sense that it is not a medical emergency situation. We do it indirectly, let’s say, through anxiety crises.
Have you ever had insomnia?
I cannot remember the last time I had insomnia in my life. Perhaps because I am a very active person, when I lie down it never takes me more than fifteen to twenty minutes to fall asleep. In my opinion, exercise is the best remedy for those who have insomnia.
Do you recall any curious event related to sleep, or lack thereof?
Not really; I only recall ordinary situations like being late because of not having heard the alarm clock.