Sleep Tips for Shift Workers
The Daily Doze
When it comes to healthy sleep hygiene, we’ve been told the same tried-and-tested advice:
Keep a set time and routine for sleep to maintain our circadian rhythms.
This is an optimal piece of advice, but unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury to sleep 7-8 hours straight while it’s dark! This is especially true for alternative and graveyard shift workers.
About 20% of the full-time workforce in the United States is involved in some form of shift work outside the typical 9-to-5. Typical jobs in shift work are those in the medical, emergency, and security fields:
- Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare practitioners;
- Nursing assistants, psychiatric aides, veterinary assistants, and other healthcare support staff;
- Firefighters, police officers, security guards, and other protective service workers.
These hardworking people so commonly have issues sleeping that an official sleep disorder has been identified by psychologists: Shift Work Sleep Disorder.
What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)?
Working non-traditional hours can be demanding to one’s health and sleep, especially for those who work night, early morning, or on rotating shifts.
Sleep deprivation due to shift work is related to the disturbance of the regular sleep/wake cycle. Over time, these individuals may develop shift work disorders, marked by insomnia symptoms when they attempt to sleep and excessive tiredness or exhaustion while at work.
(Also Read: How Sleep Affects Your Mental Health)
Shift work schedules go against most peoples’ internal body clocks, or circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are how our bodies respond to light cues to sleep and wake normally, so staying up a whole day, being on-call or sleeping during the day causes us to fall out of sync with our natural cycles.
As a result, SWSD causes difficulties for those adjusting to a different sleep/wake schedule, who experience serious issues with falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping when desired.
Shift work disorder has short-term and long-term effects. Most shift workers sleep 1-4 hours less per day than regular workers. Not only does this sleep deprivation cause cognitive and physical health issues, it also affects occupational performance and makes employees more prone to errors and accidents.
SWSD carries an increased likelihood of risky consequences affecting your waking life:
- Work-related accidents
- Irritability or mood issues
- Impaired social, coping and problem-solving skills
- Health-related issues
- Drug and alcohol dependency
Not every shift worker suffers from SWSD. It is estimated 10% to 40% of shift workers have SWSD. If you're a shift worker experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
How can I deal with shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?
Shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority, which requires a solid plan. It’s essential to get enough sleep every day. People who work shifts other than a 9-to-5 routine might have to prepare for sleeping with daylight outside.
Here are some sleep tips that could help:
- Minimize exposure to light on the way home from night shift work to avoid the daylight activating your internal “daytime clock.”
- Follow nighttime rituals and keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and days off.
- Use blackout curtain windows to simulate a dark, nighttime sleep environment.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
- At home, ask the family for support in creating a quiet, dark, and peaceful setting for slumber. You should have a designated room for sleep with minimal or no distractions.
- Encourage family and/or housemates to avoid noisy activities such as vacuuming or dishwashing. Ask them to lower their voices and to wear headphones when listening to music or watching TV.
- Sleep on a high-quality sleep surface with sufficient support and comfort for restorative sleep. Choose MajesticBeds to get your best sleep ever!
Learn More about Sleep
When it comes to sleep, it is important to take a proactive approach to fix issues. Learn more about better sleep hygiene. Check out our other blog posts to enrich your knowledge further:
- How to Sleep Better When You Travel
- The 6 Most-Burning Questions on Sleep, Answered
- SLEEP 101: The Basics of Sleep
Looking to upgrade your sleep surface? Our Majestic Beds Team Sleep Experts would be more than happy to advise you about relieving pain or discomfort and getting a better night’s sleep. We can help you find the best solution to your sleep symptoms and needs.
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