6 Jul 2017

Sleeping around the clock: five tips to help shift workers sleep

For many of us, getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night is an ongoing challenge. While we know sleep is important for our health,  work and family responsibilities can mean our resting time gets cut short.

Unfortunately, this can be even harder for people with jobs that involve shift work, such as hotel staff, hospital nurses and any other role that requires 24hour service. On average, shift workers get two to three hours less sleep than people who work regular hours[1], and can often find it difficult to rest during the day due to unfavourable conditions such as sunlight, noise, distractions and temperature.

This ongoing sleep deprivation may affect mood, health and safety.

Understanding Your Sleep - ResSleep

Does this sound familiar?

If you work around the clock, then you are probably familiar with the challenge of obtaining adequate sleep daily.

Shift workers may often find it difficult to balance sleep, work and life commitments. . However, because getting enough restful sleep is so important for well-being, here are five tips to help you get a better sleep, no matter what time of day.

  1. Keep Your Room Cool
    If you read our previous article, Snuggling in bed this winter: how does temperature affect sleep?, you’ll know that around 18oC[2] is the ideal temperature to help not only with getting to sleep, but also staying asleep.

  2. Maintain Darkness
    One thing that throws off your sleep if you are night-time shift worker is bright daylight, which we also discussed in our previous article, Difficulty sleeping: why darkness matters. To help you get enough sleep during the day, consider installing heavy curtains or even wearing an eye mask to block out the light, which can recreate artificial night conditions.

  3. Reduce Noises and Distractions
    Trying to sleep when the neighbourhood is active presents its own challenges, and these heightened noises can easily disturb you. Try and make your room as soundproof as possible by closing the windows and doors, as well as drawing the heavy curtains. You may also want to try earplugs, turn off your mobile phone, and tell housemates to be mindful while you are resting.

  4. Plan Social Activities
    Friends and family can often not appreciate the hours you need to sleep to fit around your work timetable, and this may lead to them trying to see you at times when you should be resting. If possible, plan your social time and organise events around your times so that you’re not having to sacrifice sleep or a social life.

  5. Be Strict with Your Sleep
    Just because you are going to bed at odd hours doesn’t mean that preparing to sleep should be any different; you still need to wind down the same way. This means just before hitting the pillow, even if it is morning or afternoon, don’t consume caffeinated products, avoid alcohol or smoking, don’t have a large meal right before you hop into bed and avoid stimulating activities which keep your brain active.

While shift work can throw off your sleep-wake cycle, getting enough quality sleep should still be a priority.

 Understanding Your Sleep - ResSleep

References

[1] The Better Health Channel – State Government Victoria. ‘Shiftwork’. <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/shiftwork>. Accessed 18 June, 2017.

[2] The Australian. ‘For a better night’s sleep, you’ve got to really work on that core (temperature)’. Feb 2016. <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/health-wellbeing/for-a-better-nights-sleep-youve-got-to-really-work-on-that-core-temperature/news-story/34fa8c4fa2a795d0cc447cabc24d9606>. Accessed 16 June 2017.