Adapting to shift work and getting the right amount of sleep as a shift worker is often extremely difficult, particularly when you’re just starting in your role. Your ability to become accustomed to new lifestyle and sleeping patterns can depend on a number of things, from your age and health status, to your home environment and day to day activity levels.
Working in shifts works against the body’s natural instincts and it’s often important that you are alert at night when you would normally be sleeping; and asleep during the day when you’d normally be awake. This can lead to numerous health problems and although not all shift workers face these issues, there are a high percent that do.
According to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the risk of occupational accidents is 60% higher for night shift workers; and shift workers are also more at risk of heart disease and mood disorders. One of the most common health ailments that shift workers face is sleep disorder.
Night shift sleeping disorder symptoms include suffering from insomnia when it comes time to sleep, excessive tiredness when they should be alert, not feeling refreshed enough after sleep, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating, and even depression.
Although commonly shift workers and sleep deprivation are two phrases that go hand in hand; by following some shift worker sleep tips, they don’t have to.
Tip 1: Prepare Yourself.
If you know you have shift changes coming at work, prepare in advance. Start to change the pattern of your sleep at least three days prior. Go to bed later or get up earlier. Start with a few hours difference on the first day, and knock it back until you’re sleeping on the third day in line with your new routine.
Tip 2: Watch what you eat and drink.
Plan your meal times based on when you’d normally eat. Have “breakfast” within an hour of waking up; plan your lunch for a few hours later and so on. If you can, take snacks to work with you to keep you alert during the shift. You want to eat foods that are easily digestible, fruit and vegetables. Stay clear of fatty food as they tend to promote drowsiness; and sugary food which is likely to give you a short boost in your energy levels, but will leave you feeling worse for wear once the boost subsides.
Tip 3: Get plenty of exercise.
Getting the right amount of exercise is guaranteed to boost your energy levels and help to promote good sleeping habits. Just 30 minutes of light physical activity a day can greatly improve your fitness levels and if you can make it to the gym before you head off to work, you’re guaranteed to feel fresher and more energised – ready to take on your shift.
Tip 4: Stay away from drugs.
Avoid introducing drugs to your body that could result in an addiction or a dependency. That includes everything from sleeping tablets or excessive alcohol to help you get the rest you desire; to energy drinks, hard drugs and other stimulants that are designed to keep you awake.
Tip 5: Change begins at work.
You can start to change your sleeping routine at home by making minor changes at work. Before you start work, do some basic stretches or light exercise. During your shift, take short breaks regularly, even if that means just taking a 5 minute walk around the office or ward. Keep the lights bright so that your mind doesn’t go into rest mode, and talk to your co-workers when possible. Drive straight home and avoid stopping along the way.
Tip 6: Adjust your sleep schedule.
The best sleep patterns for shift workers depend on the job itself and your hours, so you need to establish what works for you. Generally you need to get 7-8 hours sleep a night. If you don’t think you can manage that, at least try to get 5-6 hours and rest for another two.
Tip 7: Follow a routine.
Imagine that you’re living a “regular” working life where you go to work at 9am, come home at 5pm, have dinner, shower, watch a little television then head off to bed. Do the same when you work shifts. Avoid exercise and caffeine for at least 2-3 hours before sleep, have a light meal so you will sleep longer, and take a bath or relax on the couch.
Tip 8: Change your sleep environment.
One of the best night shift sleep tips is to get some black-out curtains or blinds that can help turn bright into night. Make sure the bedroom isn’t too hot as humidity is guaranteed to keep you awake. Try to sleep in a quiet corner of the house, use ear plugs to block out any noise, or turn on a little white noise in the background, such as your air conditioner or a fan. Turn your phone off, and if your partner and/or children are home, ask them if they can keep things quiet for a few hours.
Tip 9: Get the right mattress.
Having a good mattress is imperative to a great sleep. A good quality mattress that’s right for you should have you feeling comfortable all night long and waking up feeling refreshed. Sealy mattresses are constructed using hundreds of coil springs arranged in a structured way to form the core of the mattress. A combination of specially selected comfort layers and premium natural materials are applied above the spring unit to assist in conformance and pressure relief.
Choose the right size to suit your sleep requirements -from a single mattress that you can fit into a spare room; to our Super King mattress so you can stretch out, roll around and feel as though you’re floating on a cloud.
When it comes to dealing with shift work and sleep deprivation, we hope the above sleeping tips for shift workers help to provide you some relief so you can get back to living a comfortable and happy life.