How To Cope With a Shift Work Sleep Schedule

shift work sleep disorder

When searching for ways to increase your health, usually three of the main things discussed are diet, exercise and sleep.

It is true that a lack of good, consistent sleep can greatly impact your health, mood, attention span, etc. And for shift workers, it can lead to other serious consequences involving their safety.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need a healthy 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Along with this goal are other beneficial sleep tips, such as sticking to a sleep schedule and having a nightly bedtime ritual.

These suggestions, of course, sound ideal… but what should you do if your work schedule affects your sleep schedule? What should you do if you are a shift worker?

Most shift workers do not have the luxury of a bedtime ritual or regular sleep schedule. Sometimes they are awake throughout the night and sleeping from 6am until 1pm. Sometimes they are awake until midnight and waking up at 4am to go to work. This puts them at risk for Shift Work Sleep Disorder.

There isn’t a lot you can do about your sleep schedule other than learning how to maintain your health and researching tips on dealing with sleep deprivation schedules.

Here are a few tips for shift workers:

  1. Regulate your caffeine intake. There’s no harm in drinking a cup of coffee when you start your shift to wake you up and give you an energy boost. However, avoid drinking any caffeine toward the end of your shift as it can cause you to have trouble falling asleep when you get home.
  2. Protect your sleeping time and space. If you are sleeping during the day and working at night, make sure to find a dark, quiet place to rest where you will not be disturbed by loud noises or family members. You may want to invest in some blackout curtains and a sound machine to help create a comfortable space to help you doze off. Also, it would be beneficial to make a serious request that your family members and friends don’t text or call during your sleeping hours unless it is an emergency.
  3. When it’s time for bed, go to sleep. If you’re coming home in the morning to go to sleep as everyone else is waking up, you may get a second wind. It may be tempting to take the kids to school, run a couple errands, watch a TV show while you eat. Try to avoid any of these type of activities as much as possible.
  4. Get some fresh air. When you wake up, whether in the morning or at night, get outside. Whether it’s eating breakfast on the back porch, going for a morning jog or taking your dogs on a walk, the sun will let your internal clock know that it’s time to be up and alert.
  5. Prepare your body in advance. If you have a significant change in your work schedule ahead of you, start to slowly alter your sleep time several days before the change takes place to get your body used to this new schedule.

Your sleep is a precious thing and must be protected and monitored as much as possible.

If you are a shift worker, have you found other things to increase your health or the ease of your sleep schedule? If so, share them with us!

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