We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is vital for our health and well-being. But, if you work in hospitality, manufacturing, health care, or one of the emergency services, chances are you’re one of the 20% of the American workforce who work night shifts.
Achieving the recommended 6-8 hours of daily sleep is easier said than done when you work nights. It’s daylight when it’s time for bed, and interruptions are inevitable as other people go about their daily lives, making noise and invading your space without a care for your sleeping hours.
Sometimes referred to as the graveyard, third, evening, or closing shift, working the night shift can affect your health. Due to the lack of proper sleep, night shift workers are prone to shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). Those with SWSD suffer from excessive sleepiness, which can lead to headaches, a lack of energy, and reduced levels of concentration.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to sleep better and prevent SWSD from impacting your life.
Night Shift Sleep Issues: Overcome Them With these Tips
Keep to a Regular Sleep Pattern
Keeping to a consistent sleep pattern is key to getting the best sleep when working the night shift. If you go to sleep at 8 a.m. and wake at 5 p.m. to get ready for your shift, try to stick to the same schedule on your days off.
This can be difficult to achieve, especially on the weekends with family commitments and social engagements in the calendar. But, the more you can stick to the routine, the better you’ll sleep when back at work. Stick with it long enough and you’ll find that your body will respect the pattern.
Prepare Your Body and Mind
Prepare your body and mind for sleep by practicing relaxation techniques when you get home. Yoga and meditation are great activities to relieve both physical and mental stress. Maybe take a hot bath or shower before bed to help relax your body and wash away the memories of your night shift.
Sleep in a Darkened Room
Darkness is needed to get a good sleep, so try to block light out of the bedroom. Consider putting up heavy curtains or blackout blinds to prevent the sun shining through. If that’s not possible, wear an eye mask to keep the room as dark as it would be during the night.
Block Out Noise
Try to block out noises and sounds that would usually interrupt your sleep. Ear plugs are a cheap method and are very effective. Investing in a white noise machine can help create a more relaxed sleeping environment by playing ambient, soothing, natural sounds while you sleep.
Consider Supplemental Help
POP Sleep Melatonin strips are a safe, reliable and effective way to give your body the extra nudge it needs to power down and go to sleep. Developed by a physician, these strips were made to help you get the sleep you deserve and to get your mornings started without the grogginess sometimes associated with sleep aids.
Reduce Exposure to Sunlight
Heading home as the sun’s coming up is not the best way to prepare for going to bed. Morning sunlight naturally triggers our internal clock, telling us that it’s time to get ready for the day ahead.
Minimizing your exposure to sunlight when traveling home after a night shift can help. Wear sunglasses on your commute to convince your body that it’s time to rest.
Limit Caffeine Intake During the Night Shift
Similar to those with 9-5 jobs, don’t drink caffeine before going to bed. Caffeine may help you stay alert at work, but you should try to avoid it during the last four hours of a night shift.
Whether it’s coffee, tea, or an energy drink, caffeine remains in the body for up to six hours. In fact, studies suggest we lose up to an hour of sleep when our body doesn’t have enough time to metabolize caffeine before bed.
Resisting that last cup of coffee at the end of your shift should help you fall asleep quicker and sleep much better.
Avoid Alcohol and Other Recreational Substances
It can be tempting to have a little night-cap before trying to sleep. Although alcohol seems to act as a sedative and help send you off to the land of nod, research clearly demonstrates that drinking before bed can actually lead to a more disruptive sleep.
Similarly, cannabis use can put you in a relaxed state, but interrupts your sleep cycles such as REM sleep, meaning you’ll sleep faster and longer, but will still wake up feeling tired.
Ask People to Respect Your Lifestyle
Let the people you live with know your routine. This can go a long way to getting a good sleep when the rest of the household is wide awake.
Inform family and friends of the hours you work and sleep and ask them to avoid contacting you during sleeping time. Also ask them to refrain from doing noisy household chores while you try to get some shut-eye, such as doing the laundry or vacuuming.
Place your Phone on ‘Airplane Mode’ and Put Smart Devices Out of Reach
Many of us have the habit of leaving our phones on the nightstand. If you have a smartphone, set it to “do not disturb” or switch it off to avoid the screen lighting up every time you receive a message, email, or app notification.
Your sleep is more precious than the need to respond instantly to a friend request or message unless its an emergency. Similarly, blue light from phones and tablets interrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and has been proven to disrupt sleep.
Ask Your Doctor for Help
If implementing these few changes still doesn’t help with daytime sleeping, it may be time to speak with a doctor. They may prescribe sleep aids or suggest taking melatonin to help induce sleep.
Everyone Who Works the Night Shift Deserves a Good Day’s Sleep
Whether you’re a cleaner, factory worker, health professional, police officer, firefighter, or work in hospitality, working the night shift shouldn’t keep you from getting the same rest as daytime workers.
You may not have SWSD, but sleep deprivation can lead to you becoming irritable with loved ones and impact your ability to do your job well.
Follow our few simple tips to get a better sleep when working the night shift.