Alertness Maximization Tips for Journalists

Journalists have to analyze enormous amount of information in a very short amount of time. They have to broadcast this information in a comprehensible manner at times without much rehearsal. Journalists, the watchdogs of democracy, work long hours and get insufficient amount of sleep. This can adversely affect their alertness and their information management skills significantly, but they may not be aware of these deficits because of impaired self-evaluation secondary to under active prefrontal cortex (the executive center located in the frontal lobe of brain) .

General Tips for Journalists

  • Take a long nap to reduce sleep debt. Use the afternoon circadian dip in alertness to your advantage. Take a nap after lunch to pay up your sleep debt. If you are sleeping from ten at night to four in the morning (working for early morning show) OR from two in the morning to eight in the morning (working for late evening show), then take a two-hour nap from noon to two o’clock. Avoid an evening nap because it can disrupt your sleep.
  • Exercise for thirty minutes every day. This will improve your deep sleep, alertness, emotional intelligence, and information management. You can review data while paddling a stationary bike.
  • Beware of bagginess. Sleep deprivation will make bagginess under the eyes worse. Your makeup artist can help. But better yet, just sleep well. This way, you will look and feel better, too!
  • Talk slow, and think fast. Cognitive slowing occurs with sleep deprivation.
  • Compile data in one location as opposed to keeping information spread across various email folders, laptop folders, and your briefcase.
  • Write, or, better yet, draw since visual memory is less affected than verbal memory.
  • Sleep deprivation affects verbal fluency. Avoid tongue twisters.  Short sentences are perfect.
  • Recognize that sleep deprivation forms false memory. Retrieval of information is impaired. Always check and recheck facts, especially when sleep deprived.

Tips for the Early Morning Media Person

Following tips will help early morning media person excel despite insufficient sleep and circadian mismatch.

  • Plan on going to bed at eight or latest by nine in the evening.
  • Enjoy a good lunch and a two-hour nap in early afternoon to pay up your sleep debt.
  • If you sleep in until eight or nine in the morning on weekends, truncate or even eliminate the afternoon nap. If you prefer to continue the weekday routine, that is perfectly fine, too.
  • Avoid caffeine after one o’clock. The early morning caffeine will help maximize alertness, but use it judiciously.
  • Stay alert while driving to work, especially on those dark winter mornings. Most fatal accidents occur during early morning hours.
  • Avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime because it will rob you of your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and make your sleep non-restorative. Start drinking early!
  • Avoid staring at bright light in the evening. It will make it harder to fall asleep at eight or nine  o’clock at night.

Tips for the Late Night Media Person

It is relatively easier for the late-night anchor because it is easier to postpone sleep than to advance it. This is, in part, secondary to the fact that our sleep-wake cycle is slightly longer than twenty-four hours.

Following recommendations will help you excel.

  • Sleep from two o’clock to ten o’clock if you can. To help you sleep until ten o’clock, make sure your windows have dark drapes and the phone is turned off.
  • Make sure your family members respect your sleeping through the morning hours. Put a “shift worker at sleep” sign on your bedroom door.
  • Keep your phone and laptop turned off during your sleep time.
  • If you can’t sleep until ten, then catch up by napping for an hour or two after a good lunch. Make sure you take this catch-up nap as early in the afternoon as you can so it does not interfere with your sleep onset at night.
  • Stay alert driving to home after work, especially on those dark winter mornings. Most fatal accidents occur between midnight and six o’clock.

Feel free to email me with your questions and comments at

Thanks for keeping us informed. God bless you.


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