How to sleep well if you work the night shift

November 14, 2014

It can be hard for the body to adjust to the night shift, but with a little patience and persistence, you'll find that certain methods work magically.

How to sleep well if you work the night shift

From nurses to security guards, there are a significant number of Canadians working the night shift. Going to your job in the evening twists around your biological clock and can negatively impact your circadian rhythm, a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle typically influenced by environmental factors such as light sources in the daytime and nighttime. This leads to what is called shift work sleep disorder, a problem prevalent among night- and rotation-shift employees. However, this can usually be fixed. Have a look at some tips to help you sleep well while working the night shift.

Stick to the schedule

Unless you quit and find another job, you're going to be working the night shift, so stick with it and adjust your schedule accordingly. Each person varies, so it could take days to weeks for your body to fully adjust to working through the night and sleeping during daylight hours. Make sure your family members or roommates understand your schedule and let you rest during the day. Allot an eight hour period for sleep, and transition into sleeping during that time frame. It may be difficult at first, but your body will adjust with time.

Don't change your sleeping pattern on the weekend

When you're not working, don't go back to sleeping like a day shift worker. This will only make it more difficult to transition back into the working week. Instead, keep the same sleeping pattern. For most folks, their biological clock tells them to sleep when it's dark and stay awake while it's light. When those working the night shift get a day off, they're often tempted to revert back to that daily pattern; resist this temptation in order to sleep better during the week.

Simulate day during night and vice versa

When you go to your job at night, make sure you are working in a well-lit environment, as this reduces the chance of feeling drowsy or fatigued. Similarly, when you go home in the morning to go to bed, make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible. Use curtains and drapes to keep sunlight from entering, and wear an eye mask. In a sense, you want to trick your body into believing it's nighttime during the day and daytime during the night. In addition, wearing ear plugs and controlling the temperature of your home can help you fall asleep more easily during the day.

Exercise and eat well

Regular exercise and a good diet help anyone sleep more soundly, but this is even more crucial for night workers. It's important that third shift employees eat three to five meals a day, abstain from caffeine when bedtime is within five hours and lay off fattening foods and excessive alcohol use. Exercising three hours or more before bedtime can also make it easier to sleep.

While there is medicine that can help with sleep, the simple strategies listed above should work for most individuals. Sleeping well while working the night shift simply requires persistence in changing your biological clock, living a healthy lifestyle and making sure your environment is conducive to work and sleep.

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