Shift workers are at an increased risk of developing sleep disorders, such as insomnia, because of their irregular sleep patterns and subsequent daytime sleepiness. Research by the National Sleep Foundation shows that 15% of shift workers have difficulty sleeping, and those who work the night shift are even more likely to develop sleeping problems. Shift workers can benefit from getting adequate sleep during their days off from work and following a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at similar times every day. This will help prevent them from becoming overly tired in the evening and experiencing trouble falling asleep when it’s time to go to bed.
What are sleep hygiene habits?
Sleep hygiene refers to the behaviors, personal practices, and lifestyle choices that affect your sleep patterns, such as the foods you eat and the activities you engage in before bedtime. Shift workers have sleep challenges that can interfere with normal circadian rhythms (your internal clock), leading to problems with getting quality sleep and even serious sleep disorders like insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder. But you can reduce these risks by setting up good sleep hygiene habits to help regulate your internal clock and manage your shift work schedule more effectively.
Sleep problems faced by shift workers
A lack of sleep is commonly associated with people who work shifts, but there are several other sleep problems that can occur as well. Some of these include-
- Having difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early, experiencing restless sleep, and feeling tired throughout much or all of your day.
- A reduction in quality sleep can lead to more serious health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Several factors can cause such adverse effects on one’s health; poor sleeping patterns due to working rotating shifts being a major contributor.
Keeping proper sleep hygiene, on the other hand, can help protect you from potential issues caused by shift work. Make good sleep habits a priority today!
Importance of sleep hygiene for rotational or night-shift workers
Those working night shifts may have an increased risk of developing or worsening sleep disorders and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Incorporating good sleep hygiene can be an effective way to reduce these risks and improve the quality of life in those who work during unusual hours. An appropriate pre-sleep routine:
The body clock is most resistant to reset when you are sleeping, so it’s important to make sure your body transitions from active wakefulness into sleep as easily as possible by practicing good sleep hygiene before going to bed. Avoid stimulants that interfere with relaxation like caffeine and nicotine within six hours prior to bedtime.
Establishing a set time for waking up every day helps keep our internal clocks consistent even if we aren’t getting enough sleep at night since our bodies expect consistency between wake times and other routines throughout each day; nighttime lights should also be eliminated if possible (other than dim lights on timers). Avoid working, engaging in stimulating activity, or looking at bright screens two hours prior to seeking sleep. Use your bedroom only for sleeping -- not eating, watching TV, surfing online, using electronics, etc.
Ways to schedule a night work sleep schedule
There are many ways to calculate and manage your own personal night shift schedule, but there is no one way that works for everyone. Instead, focus on finding a routine that will work for you and stick with it. Implementing proper sleep hygiene before and after your shift should be part of any successful rotating shift worker’s regimen.
1) Schedule your workouts around your sleeping hours so that exercise doesn’t disrupt your circadian rhythm.
2) Strive for exposure to bright light (i.e., sunlight) as much as possible during both day and night shifts by eating meals outside, sitting near windows whenever possible, etc.
3) Avoid using electronic devices at least one hour before going to bed in order not to disrupt circadian rhythms.
4) Have a relaxing pre-sleep routine that doesn’t involve any stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine.
5) Be consistent with your sleep schedule, including waking time and bedtime, even on weekends; if you stay up late on Saturday night, be sure to get enough rest Sunday night to make up for it.
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Sample sleep schedule
There are various sleep schedules that may help you get quality sleep when working at night. One way is to divide your 24-hour day into two 12-hour shifts, one starting at 6 pm and ending at 6 am, and one starting at 6 am and ending at 6 pm. You can also try going to bed two-three hours earlier than usual on your nights off (and setting your alarm accordingly), or getting up an hour later than usual on your days off.
Tips to stay awake and productive during shift work
Coffee and energy drinks are NOT an option. Most caffeinated drinks have as much caffeine as an entire cup of coffee, but because they’re sweeter, you don’t realize it. Instead, have one small cup of black coffee or tea (no sugar or cream) and limit your intake if you need more than that. Artificial sweeteners mess with your body’s natural ability to regulate calories, so be mindful of what you add in when drinking hot beverages like tea or coffee.
(1) Build in time to eat breakfast;
(2) Keep caffeinated beverages out of sight;
(3) Get plenty of rest when not working. A night-shift sleep disorder is an independent risk factor for hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, as well as impaired mental health.
(4) Go for a walk before work.
(5) Drink Water in 1-2 Hour Gaps
(6) Don’t rely on sleeping pills or alcohol to make up for lost sleep.
(7) Eat vegetables. One study showed that people who ate eight servings of vegetables daily slept better than those who didn’t consume any vegetables, even if their overall diet was high in fat. The same goes for other foods rich in magnesium and potassium like spinach, bananas, and almond.
Many studies have shown that shift workers suffer more sleep disorders than regular day workers. And while it’s important to make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep every night, working odd hours can significantly impair your body’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. While it might be tempting when you first start working rotating shifts, it’s essential that you adopt sleep hygiene practices to minimize risk factors associated with circadian rhythm disorders.