Sleeping Tips for Shift Workers

Shift workers often struggle to find a balance between sleep and their varying shifts. They often find there is not enough time for sleep between each shift and spending time with their families or friends.

Various studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to serious health consequences for shift workers, including police officers, firefighters, and medical workers.

Shift work can mess up with your biological clock so it can’t tell you when it is time for you to be awake and when you should sleep.

This may further lead to sleep disorders and various potential health problems. Namely, researches have shown that those who work rotating or night shifts are at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, ulcers, metabolic syndrome and heart disease

Although there is no perfect plan that could equally work for everyone, there are some strategies that can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Here is what you can do:

Adjust Your Work Time

If you work rotating shifts, try to ask your manager to schedule your succeeding shifts so that your new shift starts a bit later than the previous one.

For example, if you have just finished a 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. shift, you will be more alert and sleep much better if your next shift is 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Make a Deal With Your Partner

Shift work can be tough on the entire family. Talk to your partner about your parental responsibilities and divide household tasks. This will make sure that you will have enough time to sleep when you come back from work and that you will not have to worry about kids and household until your turn comes.

Maintain a Schedule

Try to keep the same sleep-wake schedule on your workdays as on your at-home days as this will make your body realize when it is time to be alert and when you should sleep.

Keep Your Workplace Lighted Properly

Try to keep your workplace lighted properly to promote alertness. If you are working a night shift, you should expose yourself to bright light such as that from special lamps, light boxes, and visors designed for people who have circadian-related sleep problems.

Circadian rhythms are basically the internal clock of our bodies that signals us when to be awake and when to go to sleep. They are controlled by a certain part of the brain influenced by light. So, being exposed to bright light when starting a new day can help train the internal clock of your body to adjust.

Spend More Time Outdoors

Spending more time outdoors can have the same effects as those lamps. Once you wake up, get outside if you can, take a walk and sit in the sun. The sun will tell your biological clock that it is time to be alert.

Avoid Driving to Work and Back Home

Shift work can make you feel drowsy, and drowsy driving can lead to accidents and serious injuries. Avoid driving to work so you wouldn’t have to drive back home.

Take the bus instead or hire a taxi and have someone who is better rested than you pick you up after work and take you home.

Avoid Bright Light after Night Shift

Avoid bright light when returning from work as this can make you fall asleep easier once you hit the pillow. Wear dark sunglasses and a hat to shield yourself from sunlight when returning from a night shift.

Also, when you sleep during the day, try to use heavy curtains or blackout blinds to block sunlight as it can stimulate the circadian rhythm. Even if your eyes are closed, the sunlight that comes into your room tells your brain that it is a daytime and a time to be awake when your body is really exhausted and you are trying to sleep.

Discuss Your Sleep Needs With Your Family

Discuss your sleep needs with your kids and the rest of your family. Tell your kids that you are working hard and that you need to get enough sleep and ask them not to enter your room while you are sleeping unless it is an emergency.

Be sure to specify exactly what is an emergency and what is not. Besides this, you should ask your family to limit visitors and phone calls during your sleep hours.

Be Careful about What You Eat and Drink

Avoid heavy meals before sleep and limit alcohol intake. Although alcohol may seem to relax you and make you fall asleep more quickly, it will disrupt your sleep later in the night. As a result, you will get less sleep and the sleep that you get will be less refreshing.

You should also limit caffeine. Drinking a cup of coffee at the beginning of your shift will promote alertness and help you stay awake, but avoid consuming it later or you may have troubles falling asleep once you get home and go to bed.