If you're newly adjusting to night shift, it can be challenging to figure out how to sleep. After all, your body is used to sleeping at night! Getting into the new routine quickly and without too much disruption is key to success. But how?
Fortunately, there are dozens of valuable tips that you can use to get better sleep as a shift worker. Doing your research to find what works best for you is vital. And that's where we come in!
In this article, we'll examine why adjusting to night shift can be a challenge and the health risks involved. Then, we'll explore 15 sleeping tips for shift workers and 15 more pointers on how to wake up the right way. Let's get into it!
Why Adjusting to Night Shift Can Be Problematic
Your body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm that helps regulate when you feel sleepy and wide awake. This natural sleep-wake cycle is dictated by exposure to light and darkness.
During the day, sunlight causes your body to produce more of the hormone cortisol, which helps to keep you alert and awake. At night, as the sun sets and it starts to get darker, your body begins to produce more of the hormone melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy.
This is why it can be so difficult to adjust to working at night – your natural inclination is to sleep when it's dark outside!
Why It's Important To Have a Good Sleep Schedule for Night Shift
If you're not used to working nights, you may find staying awake and alert during your shift challenging. This can lead to errors and accidents and negatively impact your health in the long run.
That's why it's so important to have a good sleep schedule for night shift. By getting into a routine of sleeping during the day, you can help to adjust your body's natural circadian rhythms better. As a result, you'll be less likely to feel sleepy during your shift.
How Shift Sleeping Can Affect Your Health
If you don't get enough sleep, it can impact your health in several ways. You may feel irritable, anxious, or even depressed in the short term. You may also have trouble concentrating, and you may be more accident-prone.
In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to more severe health problems. These problems include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
You must take the possible health risks into account while shift sleeping. While in these uncertain times, many workers are forced to take shifts they'd rather not. If at all possible, it's best to try and stick to a shift that better suits your natural body clock.
While not the most severe condition you may face, it's important to be aware of shift work sleep disorder as another potential hazard of sleeping on night shifts.
What Is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
If you have trouble sleeping when you're supposed to, or if you feel excessively sleepy during your shift, you may suffer from shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). SWSD is a condition that is characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness. It's thought to be caused by disrupting the body's natural circadian rhythms.
Some of the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night
- Feeling tired and groggy during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
You must speak to a doctor if you think you may be suffering from shift work sleep disorder. They will be able to advise you on how to manage the condition. Some of the common ways to treat the condition are:
- Adjusting your sleep schedule
- Taking naps during the day
- Exposing yourself to natural sunlight
- Taking medication
If you think you're suffering from shift work sleep disorder or want to try and adjust your body to a new schedule, there are several things you can try for your time asleep and when you wake.
15 Sleeping Tips for Shift Workers
As we've mentioned, there are a lot of sleeping tips for shift workers, with some being more suited to your situation than others. Here are our top 15.
1. Get Exposure to Natural Light During the Day
This will help to keep your circadian rhythm in check and prevent your body from getting too used to sleeping during the day when adjusting to night shift. If possible, take a walk outside during your lunch break or spend some time sitting near a window.
2. Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
You might be tempted to reach for another cup of coffee to help you power through your shift, but this can make it harder to fall asleep when you finally get off work. Caffeine has a half-life of around five hours, meaning it can stay in your system for up to 10 hours. So if you drink coffee at 3 p.m., half of the caffeine will still be in your system when you go to bed at 1 a.m. Of all our sleeping tips for shift workers, this is one of the most important.
3. Create a Sleep Haven at Home
Make sure your bedroom is relaxing, dark, and silent, all things that will help you fall asleep more easily. You might also consider investing in a white noise app or earplugs to help block out any disruptive sounds.
4. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
If you can, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on your days off. This will help to keep your body's natural circadian rhythms in check and make it easier to adjust to sleeping during the day.
5. Don’t Work Back-to-Back Night Shifts
If possible, avoid working two or more night shifts in a row. This can be tough on your body and make it even harder to get adequate sleep. If you have to work consecutive night shifts, try to take a nap before your second shift starts.
6. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
It might be tempting to have a drink or two at the end of your shift to help you relax, but alcohol can interfere with sleep. It can make falling asleep harder and staying asleep throughout the night. Plus, it can lead to dehydration, which can make fatigue worse.
7. Eat Healthy Foods During the Day
Eating a nutritious diet can help improve your energy levels and make staying awake during your shift easier. Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains during the day. And if you get hungry during your shift, reach for healthy snacks like nuts or fruit instead of sugary or fatty foods.
8. Avoid Working Overtime
Working long hours can lead to fatigue, so try to avoid working overtime if possible. If you do have to work extra hours, make sure to take some time to rest and recover before your next shift starts. This transition period is crucial when adjusting to night shift.
9. Get Regular Exercise
Exercise can help improve your energy levels, mood, and overall well-being. Taking a brisk walk or going for a swim on your days off can help you stay refreshed and alert for your next shift.
10. Take Breaks During Your Shift
If you can, take a few minutes to rest and rejuvenate yourself during your shift. Step away from your workstation for a few minutes to walk around or grab a quick snack. You'll be surprised how much of a difference it can make in how you feel when shift sleeping.
11. Connect With Friends and Family
Staying social can help to improve your mood and make it easier to deal with the challenges of working nights. Connect with friends and family members during your days off or break at work. Morale is crucial to learning how to sleep for a night shift.
12. Manage Stress Levels
On a similar theme, shift sleeping can be stressful, so it's important to find ways to manage your stress levels. Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. And make sure to take some time for yourself to do things that you enjoy outside of work.
13. Seek Professional Help if Needed
If you're struggling to adjust to sleeping on night shifts, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A counsellor or therapist can assist you in dealing with the challenges of shift work and help you develop healthy coping mechanisms.
14. Talk to Your Boss About Your Concerns
Talk to your boss about your concerns if you're having difficulty learning how to sleep for a night shift. They might be able to offer suggestions or help you make adjustments to your shift sleeping plan.
15. Consider Supplements
If you're still struggling to sleep, several supplements can help. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. Taking it before bed can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Several herbs, such as chamomile, lavender, and valerian root, can be helpful for insomnia. All these are natural products and don't come with the risk associated with sleeping pills.
Adjusting to night shift can be tough on your body and mind. But with some preparation and effort, you can learn how to manage the challenges of shift work and get the sleep you need. Try these tips to get started.
Why Waking up Correctly Is Important When Sleeping on Night Shifts
Having read our sleeping tips for shift workers, it's probably evident that sleeping on night shifts can be tough. However, it's also important to wake up correctly to get the most rest possible. How you wake up can define how the rest of your day goes, so it's essential to be aware of the best practices.
15 Tips on How to Wake up the Right Way
1. Avoid Using an Alarm Clock if Possible
If you can, avoid using an alarm clock to wake up. Sudden jolts awake are never fun, and if you're trying to figure out how to sleep for a night shift, they can be incredibly detrimental. Instead, try setting a timer for when you need to wake up so you can ease into the day. There are many apps available that can help with this.
2. Get Out of Bed as Soon As You Wake Up
Don't lie in bed awake for long periods. This can make it easier to fall back asleep and also increase feelings of anxiety or depression, which can develop among those sleeping on night shifts. If you're struggling to wake, get out of bed and do something energetic.
3. Avoid Caffeine After You wake
Despite popular belief, caffeine isn't good as part of a sleep schedule for night shift or waking up. Your body naturally wakes you up with cortisol, meaning that the extra caffeine boost is not needed. Instead, you should save your coffee or other caffeinated drink for a few hours after you wake when your energy levels begin to drop.
4. Drink a Glass of Water When You First Wake Up
Start your day with a glass of water to rehydrate your body. This will help you feel more awake and can also help to reduce headaches. Hydration is an underrated part of the sleep schedule for night shift.
5. Stretch or Do Some Light Exercise
After you've had a glass of water, try stretching or doing some light exercises. This can help increase blood flow and boost your mood, which, as we mentioned, is vital for those sleeping on night shifts.
6. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
Eating a nutritious breakfast after you wake up is vital, even if you're not feeling very hungry. This will give you energy for the day and can help to improve your mood and focus.
7. Get Some Sunshine
Exposure to natural light can help to regulate your body's sleep cycle. If possible, step outside for a few minutes after you wake up if it’s still light. While you may not see much sunlight when learning how to sleep for a night shift, it's important to get what you can.
8. Take a Shower
A shower can help to wake you up and can also be relaxing. Start your day with a refreshing wash to help yourself feel more awake and alert.
9. Make Your Bed
Taking a few minutes to make your bed can help you feel more organized and give you a sense of accomplishment first thing after you wake. It may not seem much, but little things like this can boost your mood and enthusiasm, one of the top sleeping tips for shift workers.
10. Plan Your Day
Before starting your day, take a few minutes to think about what you need to do and your goals. This will help you to focus and stay on track throughout the day.
11. Avoid Checking Your Phone First Thing in the Morning
Resist the urge to check your email, social media, or messages as soon as you wake up. This can be stressful and can set a negative tone for the rest of your day.
12. Do Something You Enjoy
After you've taken care of any necessary tasks, make sure to do something that makes you happy. This could be reading, listening to music, spending time with your pet, or anything else that brings you joy.
13. Practice Relaxation Techniques
If you're feeling stressed or anxious, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. These can help calm your mind and body.
14. Connect with Loved Ones
Spending time with loved ones can help reduce stress and boost your mood. Whether you talk on the phone, send a text, or meet in person, stay connected with the people who matter most to you. Loneliness is an underreported issue, with many shift sleeping workers either working alone or as part of a small skeleton staff.
15. Give Yourself Time to Adjust
If you're struggling to wake up early, don't be too hard on yourself. Adjusting to a new sleep schedule can take time, so be patient and stick with it. Soon enough, you'll be a pro at getting up early!
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Working night shifts can be tricky, but there are things you can do to make the transition easier. Following these tips can help you feel more awake and alert during your s schedule for night shift. Give yourself time to adjust; soon enough, you'll be a pro at working nights!