Sleep Tips for Night Shift Workers

86492401-smallThe human body is naturally wired to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. However not all career paths offer the luxury of sleep while the sun is down. Emergency room nurses, late night security guards and bakers are all working hard through the night while the rest of us are sleeping.

It’s common that people who work the later shifts don’t get enough quality sleep and are more prone to developing work shift sleep disorder (SWSD). SWSD is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder involves a problem with your body’s 24-hour internal clock. Light and dark help your body know when to be active and when to rest. When these are reversed, your body’s internal clock needs to be reset in order to let you sleep during the day.

There are ways you can help your body get better sleep during the day and feel more active during your shift at night:

Create a Restful Environment

To encourage uninterrupted sleep, turn off or unplug your phone and hang blackout shades on the windows. Schedule appointments and other activities outside of your designated “sleep period”. This includes letting family and friends know to not disturb you during these times of the day.

Take a Short Nap before your Shift

Napping for up to 30 minutes just before working a late night shift can help increase alertness and enhance your performance. Napping also helps quicken reaction time, improves your memory, and helps prevent you from making mistakes in the work place. Keep your naps short though, the longer your nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy when you wake up.

Stick to a Routine

Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day helps promote good sleep. Being consistent is very important, even if this means maintaining your new sleep schedule on weekends and days off.

Make Healthy Life Choices

Eat a healthy diet and include physical activity into your daily routine. If exercise energizes you, plan to work out after you wake up, rather than before you go to sleep. Resist the temptation to use junk food or nicotine to stay awake, as well as avoiding alcohol to help you get to sleep.

If these tips don’t help, consult your doctor or a sleep specialist. Sometimes other underlying factors, such as sleep apnea, may be hindering your ability to get a good night’s (or day’s) sleep.

The Skill of Lucid Dreaming

Every night when we lay down on our mattresses and close our eyes, we often wonder what kind of story our brain will come up with when we finally drift off to sleep. Will you be falling endlessly into an bottomless pit? Will you be alone on a private island with your favorite hollywood starlet? Will you accidently push that starlet into a bottomless pit?

“I would have let you do anythiiiiiiiiii”

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The point is you don’t know what wacky things your brain will throw together in the mysterious abyss of the dream-world. Unless of course, you are able to somehow become conscious of the fact that you are dreaming in the midst of doing so. This well-established phenomenon is referred to as lucid dreaming and has been studied and debated upon for decades in pseudo-scientific circles across the globe.

Lucid dreams, and dreams in general, occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of the sleep cycle. Studies have been done showing that the direction in which your eyes move during this stage corresponds with the direction you may be looking in the so-called dreamscape. While this eye movement is occurring  the first stage to dreaming lucidly is becoming aware that you are, in fact, dreaming. The recognition has been theorized to occur in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is where working memory occurs and is one of the few areas of the brain that is typically shut off during REM sleep. After the initial recognition stage, the dreamer must walk a mental tightrope in between being careful enough to let the dream continue and being conscious enough to be aware that he or she is dreaming.

There are several tried and true methods for achieving lucidity in dreaming, the most popular of which include Dream Induced Lucid Dreams (DILD), Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreams (MILD), and Wake Induced Lucid Dreams (WILD). In the DILD method the dreamer must simply have a high level of awareness when going to sleep in order to actively identify clues in the dream that give away the fact that they are dreaming. The MILD method can be utilized in four easy steps:

  1. Work on your dream recall by writing down at least one of your dreams each morning as soon as you wake up. The more you remember your dreams, the more vivid they were which increases your chances of attaining lucidity.
  2. Commit constant reality checks to your memory by actively thinking to yourself, “Am I dreaming”, at various times throughout the day.
  3. When you lay down to go to sleep, program commands to your memory by repeating in your mind, “I am dreaming”, which will affirm your lucidity when you actually are dreaming.
  4. When you are deeply relaxed and feel you could fall off to sleep at any moment begin to visualize a recent dream, but change the ending slightly. This will put you in the mindset you were in when you were dreaming last but now you have prepared yourself to achieve lucidity.

In order to use the WILD method you have to achieve sleep paralysis which can be done by lying completely still. If you do this until you fall asleep you will most likely be able to dream lucidly.

Above all, the most important step to lucid dreaming is achieving the appropriate amount of REM sleep. The best way to do this is sleeping on a mattress that is comfortable enough to keep you properly suspended between the dream and waking worlds without the tossing and turning that comes with an uncomfortable mattress. In all reality, the difference between sleeping on, say, a memory foam mattress as compared to an old spring mattress, could be the difference between lucid dreaming in a wonderful cloud world and a lumpy WWI battlefield.

Good choice.