It’s not ideal, but sometimes working the night shift is unavoidable. Industries like oil rig workers and nurses operate around the clock for various reasons, and will need to keep people on staff and active at those times in order to stay afloat.
If you find yourself working the night shift for any period of time, from one month to several years, it can be hard to make the adjustment, and even harder to feel rested during that time period. Here are the top five sleeping tips for night shift workers we could find to help.
1. Have a Schedule
It is vital to any sleep pattern, even more so with night shift workers, to have a set schedule of wake-up and sleep times. With some jobs, this might be impossible; nurses, for instance, oftentimes work on a rotating calendar, going in and clocking out at different times every week. But if you can manage it, try to have the same schedule. This will allow your body to adjust and will make falling asleep and coming awake easier.
One way to help with this involves enlisting the support of others. One, if you have a partner, tell them about your sleep needs and ask them to hold you accountable. They will not make sure you stick to your plan, but will also help to keep the environment calm so that you can sleep.
2. Ease Into It
Generally, doctors advise giving your bodies three days to adjust to a new sleep schedule, so if you know that you are going to be moving to a different shift in a couple weeks time, start the process of waking up earlier and earlier so that it’s not such a shock to your body when the time comes. By three days before your new shift, you should be waking up and falling asleep at the time you will be when the transition occurs. This is one of the best night shift health tips around, but also one of the more overlooked, simply because most people don’t want to change until they absolutely have to.
3. Change Your Environment
If you’re just starting out working the night shift, one of the hardest things will be simply falling asleep in the first place. Your body isn’t used to this abnormal time, so you sometimes have to trick your body into thinking it’s night time by drawing the shades and keeping a nice dark room.
This is also an ideal time to look into buying memory foam mattress. There are several different online mattress companies that carry several options but look especially for ones with memory foam. These contour to your spine and allow your body to rest easier, and are simply one of the best types of mattress you can buy. Be careful though, since it’s most likely been years since you went mattress shopping, you may get sticker shock the first time you see the prices, but an investment now in your sleep quality can pay huge dividends down the road.
4. Adapt Your Schedule
If you are on a rotating schedule, ask your boss if you can work on a clockwise shift pattern, starting your next shift later than when you started this one. For instance, if you worked a 1AM-9AM shift, ask your boss if the next shift can start at 8 PM and go till 4 AM. Not only will you sleep better in between your shifts, but you will be more alert at your next shift as well.
5. Energize Your Body
If you are like most people, the absolute last thing you will want to do when you wake up is move. You will hit the snooze button several times, and then only when you really have to get up and moving, will you stumble into the kitchen searching desperately for the coffee maker.
Instead of doing that, make your first stop your back porch or front yard, and allow the sunshine to hit your face. And if it’s dark when you wake up, just simply being outside will help wake you up. Couple this with a nice cold glass of water, and you’ll be feeling alert faster than you would with a double shot of espresso.