There are different types of shift work. If you work on an oil rig and always have the same shift pattern, your body will adjust because you’ll do it for months at a time. Nurses, firefighters, police, doctors, paramedics, factory workers and office cleaning staff struggle with moving between sleep/wake patterns and shift patterns. Working on the night shift for four nights and then switching back to days is not enough for your body to adjust.
- It may not be in your control but try not to work a number of night shifts in a row. The more nights on the job the greater your sleep-deprivation. Recovery is easier when you limit the night shifts and you schedule days off in between.
- Frequently rotating shifts are challenging. Try to adjust the schedule so that it rotates from day shift to evening to night rather than the reverse order.
- Avoid putting extra hours/overtime at work as they interrupt the amount of sleep that your body needs.
- Brighten your workplace as it helps you stay alert. If you’re working the night shift, expose yourself to bright light, such as that from special light boxes, lamps, and visors designed for people with circadian-related sleep problems. Starting your “day” with brightness can help train your body’s internal clock to adjust.
- Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule as much as you can.
- Avoid bright light on the way home from work, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep once you hit the pillow. Wear dark, wraparound sunglasses and a hat to shield yourself from sunlight. Don’t stop to run errands, tempting as that may be.
- Ask your family to limit phone calls and visitors during your sleep hours.
- To improve your sleep environment, consider:
Using blackout blinds or heavy curtains
Wearing a sleep mask
Turning up your air conditioning
Turn off distractions such as your cell phone and television.