Coping With Night Shifts

Sam Woodgate

Working shifts in your 20s and 30s is easier because the younger you are, the more resilient your sleep is. In your 40s, it becomes more difficult to cope with changes to your shift patterns.

The good thing is there are some techniques that you can use to maintain your mental, physical, and emotional health when you work shifts.

Your bedroom could be affecting your sleep

If you want to get regular and consistent sleep, especially when working shifts, make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. This has been said many times before because it is important. This is going to play a big part in the quality of sleep you get. Make your bedroom a comfortable, relaxing place to be, the best Lovesac bean bag will be a comfortable place to unwind before you are ready to go to bed.

If you want to achieve darkness during the day, then use blackout blinds and heavy curtains. If this is not possible, then wear an eye mask and cover light sources in your room.

If you are working the night shift, you also need to get earplugs when you want to sleep during the day because the day is noisier than night.

Talk with your housemates, partner, or children. Let them know how important it is for you to get good sleep. Talking with them can help reduce noise levels in the house when you want to sleep during the day before going to work for your night shift.

If you want to get good sleep, then the body has to drop its temperature by one degree. The body naturally cools down at night, but the temperature tends to be higher during the day. You need to reduce your body temperature if you want to sleep during the day. Below are some tips for doing this:

  • Avoid eating big, fatty, and sugary meals before going to sleep
  • Taking a warm bath or shower before going to sleep
  • Sleep in a room with the least exposure to light

How can you make your shift work tolerable?

It isn’t easy, but taking short and structured breaks every 2-3 hours and taking a walk or getting something to eat or drink is going to help.

Choosing the right foods

Getting poor quality of sleep and shift work is going to increase your desire for fatty and sugary foods. If there are no healthy food options at work, then bring your own nutritious food with you so you can resist the temptation to eat fatty and sweet foods.

Watching what you drink

Many rely on caffeinated drinks to say awake during their shift and work efficiently through the night. This might work, but it also makes it harder to fall asleep when the shift is done. If you want to prevent this from happening, then you should stay away from caffeinated drinks at least five hours before your bedtime.

You should not drink alcohol to fall asleep. This is because the issue is not getting to sleep. Alcohol is going to affect the quality of sleep and make it less likely for you to stay asleep. This makes things even worse and you will struggle on your next shift.

Plan meals around your shifts

When working a 9-5 job, you wake up a few hours before the start of your shift. After you are done with the shift, you get to go home and have dinner then wait a couple of hours before going to sleep. The hours before going to bed is for relaxing and winding down before bedtime.

This pattern is rarely possible when you work on a rotating shift basis. When you work the night shift, you are tempted to eat your dinner at breakfast time so you can fall asleep immediately. sleeping during the day is hard enough, but the normal advice is to avoid large meals about three hours before going to bed. Digesting food requires a lot of energy and this might make it hard to fall asleep.

If it is hard to avoid going to bed as soon as you are done with your night shift, then avoid large fatty or sugary meals before going to bed. A better approach is to sleep once you are done with your shift, a meal in between, then sleep again before your next night shift.

Preparing for sleep after your night shift

It might also be a good idea to have a “Do not disturb” note on your front door explaining you are working shifts, a keyworker, and that you can only be disturbed if it is an urgent matter.

Put the phone on silent. Before you try to sleep, switch off notifications or alerts on your mobile phone.

Transitioning between shifts

This is not an easy thing to do, but there are ways of managing this better:

When you feel sleepy, go to bed, no matter the time. There is no need to try to force yourself to sleep if you are not feeling sleepy. If you feel sleepy, then your brain and body want to sleep. It is important to listen to your body.

Switching between the night shift to the normal shift is not going to be easy. You will need to get sleep during the day for the first day of your rest period. The more hours you are switching, the harder it becomes to adjust.

If you are moving from the normal shift to the night shift, it is a good idea to have a long period of sleep on the day before starting your night shift. The ideal time to have a long period of sleep is early evening or late afternoon.

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