5 Sleeping Tips for Maintaining a Night Shift Sleep Schedule
You’ve likely seen many articles on the merits of getting a good night’s sleep. There’s more than a handful of them out there.
But what if you work the night shift?
There are unique challenges when it comes to being a day sleeper. Even so, it’s just as essential to creating a night shift sleep schedule. In fact, it may be even more critical.
Importance of a Night Shift Sleep Schedule
Just as with sleeping at night, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial in falling asleep quickly and sleeping more soundly during the day.
Plus, getting enough sleep is vital for strengthening immunity and boosting overall health. It also sustains alertness—an essential function for night shift workers who need to perform at their job and want to keep work-related injuries at a minimum.
So how do you go about getting the best daytime shut-eye when you have to work night shifts? We’ll look at some steps you can take toward adjusting your sleep schedule.
Prepare for Your Night Shift
People who work only night shifts are actually at an advantage over those who have rotating schedules where they’re one some nights, then on some days. For them, they have to keep adjusting their sleep schedule.
The best way to do this, if possible, is to taper your sleep and wake times in the days leading up to your nightshift. Since most people can adjust to a 2-3 hour shift in their sleep-wake cycle, then you might start by going to bed two hours later and rising two hours later.
For example, if you have the Friday night shift, then on Tuesday, go to bed at midnight and get up at 8 am. Add three hours each day and by Friday, you’ll be getting up around 5 pm—just in time to get ready for work. And your sleep cycle won’t be greatly disturbed.
Include Naps in Your Schedule
Just as it is with nighttime sleepers, the goal of daytime sleeping is to shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep. So if you’re unable to alter your schedule to follow the “add 3 hours every day” regimen, you may want to consider taking a 90-minute power nap before heading into work.
Keep in mind that any time you nap for more than 30-40 minutes, you’ll move into a deep sleep and it will take up to an hour to feel alert again. So give yourself that time before you actually leave for work.
Remember that driving home from work can be risky after working a night shift. So when your shift is over, re-energize your body and mind with a short 15-minute power nap. Once you set out on the road, vary the route you take home to keep it interesting so you’re less likely to doze off.
Also, if daylight has broken, be sure to wear dark glasses on the way home. Light awakens your body and signals it to stop producing melatonin which promotes sleep. Wearing dark glasses will trick your body into thinking it’s still night so when you return home, you’ll already be preparing your body to sleep.
Establish a Wind-Down Pattern
Do you currently have a pattern for falling asleep? For example, you might take a warm bath with lavender salts or take some time to listen to soothing music. Perhaps a cup of herbal tea and meditation does the trick.
Whether you’re a day sleeper or a night sleeper, this “routine” is an important component to your body’s ability to ready itself for sleep. It signals to your body that it’s time to shift into slowdown mode.
Prepare Your Sleep Environment
How you’ve set up your environment for sleep is also crucial. You want a room that is quiet, cool, and dark. This can be more complicated to achieve while attempting to sleep during the day.
There are methods for soundproofing your bedroom if you live in a more populated area. You might consider double-glazing your windows, putting in a big rug, and adding insulation to your walls. Earplugs are also helpful. And a white noise machine can drown out other sounds.
As for darkness, blackout curtains and drapes will block out far more light than a standard blind. You can also wear an eye mask. Avoid any sort of light – especially that of a blue screen. Even the light of an alarm clock can disturb your sleep. Plus, checking on time can create anxiety.
And never underestimate the importance of a good mattress. A higher-end mattress that supports your whole body such as a Loom and Leaf mattress, for example, can make a tremendous difference in your sleep. If you live with others, it’s also a good idea to create a written record of your sleep and work schedule and post it so that the others in your house know not to awaken you. Meanwhile, if you live alone, you may want to put a “Day Sleeper” sticker on your front door to alert delivery people not to ring the bell.
Focus on Recovery Between Shifts
Working the night shift and sleeping during the day can sometimes leave little room (or motivation) for exercise. This is particularly true if you are working 12+ hour shifts. But staying physically fit is one of the best ways to cope with having to change your body clock periodically. In addition, the more fit you are, the less fatigued you’ll feel.
If you continually waver between a night shift and a day shift, take advantage of light alarm clocks and lightboxes that mimic the sun’s spectrum. Because these items emulate natural daylight, they can help to reset your wake cycles.
Crafting Your Own Sleep Schedule
The above steps may seem like a lot to take on when establishing your own night shift sleep schedule. But if you take advantage of them, you’ll be so glad you did.
Once you’ve found your schedule, keep it consistent—even on weekends or days you’re not working. Your body is naturally tired at night, so staying consistent will shift your body clock to this new pattern.
And for more articles on living your best life, keep checking back with our healthy living blog!