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Sleeping Well: How Shift Workers Can Improve Their Sleep

If you work shifts, you’re not alone. Many of us work swing, night, rotating, or on-call shifts. Unfortunately, the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders explains that  Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) can result from working atypical shifts. Those afflicted with this disorder have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, resulting in constant fatigue as well as difficulty concentrating and functioning. Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep is also associated with anxiety, depression, and poor overall physical and mental health.

If you do shift work, it’s important for your well-being and quality of life to try to establish and maintain healthy sleep habits, even when you’re working late or irregular hours.

Stay on schedule all week

Whether you work at a hospital, a factory, or any other place with shift work, it’s important to stay on a set schedule all week long. Even on your days off, you should keep the same sleep and wake times. Doing this will help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is the natural, internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.

Nap wisely

Some night shift workers choose to nap during their lunch hour. According to Bulletproof, a mid-shift rest of around 20 minutes preceded by a cup of coffee can be a combo to boost your energy nicely. Don’t sleep for long periods during your lunch hour, or you can wake up in the middle of a deep stage of sleep and feel groggy, which is both unsafe and unproductive.

Prioritize your health

Even if you aren’t working a typical 9-to-5 schedule, you shouldn’t neglect your health. Eat a diet full of nutritious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats. See your doctor for annual check-ups, and exercise regularly.

Your first step to improving your physical health is to join Warwick Workout where you can improve your overall well-being through physical exercise in a supportive and positive environment.

Consider tools that can help you stay on track, like fitness and nutrition apps. These apps allow you to track your physical activity, diet, and a whole lot more. When using your smartphone during strenuous activity, make sure that you keep it secure and protected with a quality armband and screen protector.

Rotate clockwise, if you must

When it comes to quality sleep, working rotating shifts is the most difficult situation for your body to handle. If you are on rotating shifts at work, consider talking with your employer about rotating the shifts clockwise. In other words, the rotation should go from day shift to evening shift to night shift to early morning shift, then back to day shift because it’s easier to adjust your sleep schedule in this direction. It’s more difficult to go from working an evening shift to working a day shift.

Establish a bedtime routine

Prepare your body for sleep by establishing bedtime rituals. When driving home from work, Psychiatric Times suggests wearing sunglasses on the way to encourage melatonin production. When you arrive at home, wind down with a snack, shower, music, meditation, or whatever works for you, and then head to bed.

Ensure the sleep environment is as ideal as possible, too. Use blackout curtains to keep your room dark. Make sure the temperature in the room is cool yet comfortable. Wear ear plugs or use white noise to drown out any background noise that may keep you awake.

Whether you’ve worked night shift for years or have just started doing shift work, it can seem impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t let poor sleep get the better of you. By establishing a consistent routine, napping wisely, and maintaining healthy habits, you can improve your sleep and overall health and well-being.

by Guest Blogger, Gabriel Patel, Healthwellwise.com