According to the American Psychological Association, 15 million Americans work the night shift. If you’re one of those people, you are actually susceptible to a unique sleep disorder called “shift work sleep disorder.” Sleep disorders can cause a wide array of health problems, including diabetes. Alzheimer’s, and more. Sleep hygiene is particularly important when working odd hours, especially through the night.
Below are 5 tips on how night shift workers can get a good night’s sleep.
1. Cut Back on Caffeine
This one may seem obvious, but the truth is many night shift workers will consume lots of caffeine in order to get through tiring late night shifts. While this may help keep you awake in the short run, it will also greatly impact your body’s ability to fall asleep once you get home. It is not recommended to drink any caffeine within several hours of falling asleep, and the same applies even if you work right before bedtime.
2. Take a quick nap before or during work
Getting in a quick nap before or a shift during a break can significantly improve alertness and energy. It will also reduce the cravings for caffeine. Taking a quick nap before work or even taking one during your shift will help you stay awake and alert a much healthier way that will not prevent you from sleeping later on. Additionally, a quick nap prevents drowsiness and lowers the risk of workplace related injuries or accidents on the way home. It is important to keep these naps brief, around 20 minutes or so, otherwise it can further interfere with Circadian rhythms. Regardless, a nap before or during work can help get you through your shift so you can get a full night’s sleep once you’re at home.
3. Get active
Studies have shown exercising before or even during a shift will allow your body to more easily stay awake throughout the night, which is good news since many night shift jobs require manual labor. It has also been shown that being physically active during a shift, or at any other time, can be helpful in falling asleep later on. Exercise and physical activity raise serotonin in the body, which is a neurotransmitter that, along with controlling our moods, regulates the sleep cycle and melatonin levels. Melatonin is the chemical we need to feel tired and want to fall asleep in the first place. No matter what activities your job entails, being mobile and active will be conducive to a good night’s sleep. Even if the job you work is sedentary, there are still ways to keep moving. For example, if you work behind a counter at a gas station, try doing a few jumping jacks every so often when the store is empty.
4. Establish a bedtime and nightly routine
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day is extremely important for healthy sleep. A nightly bedtime routine will improve your circadian rhythm so you can more easily fall asleep and wake up no matter hours you work. Doctors recommend that night shift workers go to sleep as soon as possible after work. This can be tricky, especially if it is already light outside when your shift ends. Our bodies have naturally become accustomed to falling asleep at night. Limiting the amount of sunlight that you are exposed to after work will help you get to sleep faster once you get home.
5. See a doctor if needed
The last tip is simply that if you can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep on your own, seeing a doctor is very beneficial. The doctors at Expert Sleep Medicine can help patients find ways to improve their sleep hygiene or test for sleep disorders to prevent them from causing health problems. They diagnose and treat a variety of sleep disorders and even offer at home sleep testing so that you can be tested in the comfort of your own home.