10 Sleep tips for shift workers

Last Updated on September 27, 2021

Shift work can be harmful to your sleep. The damaging effects on our health are well known, as our body’s internal clock is designed for us to be active during the day and asleep at night. According to multiple reports, anti-social hours can prematurely age the brain and our intellectual ability. In addition, employees who sleep during the day burn fewer calories than when they sleep at night, contributing to obesity.

It is less efficient to sleep in the daytime as you are constantly battling against noise and light. With an estimated 4.1million people working night shifts in the UK, they must understand the importance of rest and do what they can to achieve better daytime sleep. Lack of quality sleep can lead to a wide range of issues, from fatigue in the workplace to poor concentration, accidents and injuries.

That’s why in today’s article, we discuss 10 sleep tips for shift workers and try to explain what strategies are needed to help with relaxation in order to handle changing sleep patterns or to get the most out of broken sleep.

10 Sleep tips for shift workers

Sleep tips for shift workers

Sleep consistency is key for many employees that work night shift schedules. For example, suppose you wake up at 6 pm for your night shift and typically go to sleep at 8 am after getting home from work, then you should try to maintain this sleep-wake schedule even on your days off.

We understand that this can be difficult to achieve. Make sure your friends and family understand the importance of your rest. 

Light and noise exposure can make it hard to get quality sleep during the day. If your bedroom is bright during the day, draw the shades or wear an eye mask. You can also use earplugs and white noise machines to block outdoor sounds.

Unless you are on call, turn off your phone so that you can rest properly and without any interruptions. Here are some tips that can help you get a good night’s sleep:

1. Try not to work several night shifts in a row

It is possible that you will become more sleep-deprived over the course of several nights on the job, which is why you should try to avoid working several night shifts in a row. You’re more likely to recover if you limit night shifts and schedule days off in between. With that said, we understand that’s not always possible, so know that this is only a recommendation. 

2. Avoid frequently rotating shifts

Generally speaking, you should avoid frequently rotating shifts because they can lead to sleep disruptions. However, sometimes your colleague might have an emergency, which you would have to cover for, or your boss won’t give you a choice. In that case, it’s easier to adjust to a schedule that rotates from day shift to night shift rather than the reverse order.

3. Keep your workplace brightly lighted to promote alertness

If you are working the night shift, expose yourself to bright light from special light boxes, lamps, and visors designed for people with sleep problems when you wake up. The body’s internal clock (a.k.a. circadian rhythms) tells us when to sleep and when to be awake. The set rhythms are controlled by a part of the brain which is influenced by light. Thus, being exposed to bright light when you start your day can help train your internal clock.

4. Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol

If you drink a cup of coffee at the beginning of your shift, it will make you more alert. But, if you consume caffeine later in your shift, you may have trouble falling asleep at home. The effects of caffeine can adversely impact sleep time, efficiency, and satisfaction. It is an effective way to improve concentration, alertness and energy. But if you consume high amounts of caffeine on a daily basis, the effects can be short.

Researchers have studied the effects of alcohol on sleep for nearly a century, and the findings are interesting and significant. Alcohol can allow you to fall asleep quickly because of its sedative properties. However, people who drink before bed experience disruptions in their sleep due to the alcohol’s effects on the body. This can cause excessive sleepiness and other issues the following day.

5. Stick to a healthy diet

It’s no secret that nutrition and sleep are essential to our health, but the relationship between them is often overlooked. A balanced diet consisting of a variety of vegetables and fruits can provide the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals and contribute to better sleep while promoting a healthy weight.

Sleep advice for shift workers

6. Have a regular sleep schedule

If you are diagnosed with shift work sleep disorder, one of the most important things you can do to make sure you get enough sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene and have a regular sleep schedule. This includes establishing a regular bedtime routine while making your bedroom environment conducive to sleep, meaning it’s dark, cool and quiet.

7. Go straight to bed after work

It would be best if you made plans to go to bed as soon as possible after your shift is over. One of the triggers that keeps people awake is light. That’s why it will help if you decrease light exposure at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. You can do so by wearing sunglasses on your way home, even on a cloudy day.

8. Speak with a professional

If you need help, don’t be afraid to as for it and speak with your doctor. If behavioural techniques aren’t helping you sleep, your doctor may prescribe sleep aids (supplements) such as melatonin to induce sleep or medications to promote wakefulness. Either way, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, we highly recommend speaking with a professional. 

9. Block noise and sound

If you sleep during the day, the sunlight coming into the room will tell your brain that it is daytime, which will make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay that way. Blocking outside noise with earplugs or white noise machines, as well as using blinders or curtains on your windows, can be incredibly beneficial to the quality of your rest. 

10. Set boundaries

Tell your family to limit phone calls and unexpected visitors during sleep hours. It is a good idea to let people know what hours you are working and when you sleep, so you can rest peacefully without any disruptions. If you live with someone, ask them to stop doing noisy things like vacuuming, washing dishes or watching TV while you sleep. And lastly, don’t forget to put your smartphone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode so your screen won’t be lighting up or buzzing with every new email, message or notification.

Bottom line

 As a shift worker, we understand that it might be challenging for you to wake and go to bed at the same time every day. But you have to remember that finding the right system for you may require some trial and error. The key is getting enough sleep every 24 hours while keeping good sleep hygiene and blocking bright lights and disturbing noises. 

We hope we were able to answer the how and why when it comes down to ‘Sleep tips for shift workers?’, and now it’s our turn to hear from you if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered. Also, if you want to share some information, we would gladly hear about it in the comments below.

Isabelle Harris
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