The 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.