Something you probably don’t think about as a night-shift worker is the fact that you’re at higher risk of developing shift work sleep disorder. It may seem like all you’re doing is getting the same amount of sleep, just at a different time of day. However, our bodies are programmed with circadian rhythms which react to light (and lack of light) in order to get us to sleep or keep us awake.
Forcing this rhythm to switch can have detrimental effects on your mental health, productiveness, and even general health. Here are some tips to avoid letting your work schedule interfere with your health.
Get into a Routine
By getting into a routine, your body can adjust to the new sleep schedule over time. Eventually, your body will get used to the new sleep triggers and begin to feel tired at the right time. But until then, you probably won’t feel tired at the time you actually need to go to sleep. Write your schedule down and set aside the time you need to sleep.
While it may look like you have the whole day because you’re still thinking of your old schedule, you have to remember that daytime is set aside for sleeping now.
Avoid Rotating Shifts
Rotating shifts can be disastrous for your overall health. This is because your body never gets used to a designated schedule.
This has negative effects on your systemic health, because your bodily functions that need to happen at a certain time of day will keep shifting around, leaving you feeling groggy, sluggish, and unhealthy. The body needs to rid itself of toxins every day, and it can’t do that efficiently if the time set aside for doing that is irregular.
Make sure you’re not drinking caffeine within 6-8 hours of when you need to shut your eyes. Even if you’re barely staying awake, drinking caffeine late in your day will make it so that you can’t sleep when you need to. This will make it even harder for you to lay your head when it’s light outside.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
Sleep hygiene is very important. Good sleep hygiene ensures a good night’s rest and consists of the following:
- Dark room, no light seeping in (get light-blocking curtains if you have to)
- No loud noises, unless you prefer a fan or white noise
- No pets as they can move around on the bed and wake you up without you realizing it
- A bedtime routine, to let your brain know it’s time for bed
- No eating or drinking within 2 hours of bedtime
- Put away digital devices one hour before bedtime. The light from your phone can trigger your brain to stay awake longer
Combating shift work sleep disorder is possible, but you have to be vigilant and intentional with your schedule. Simply napping when you’re tired is not enough.
Creating a routine that your body can get used to is essential to getting good rest on an alternate sleep schedule.