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Dos and Don'ts: How to Get Proper Sleep When Working Night Shifts

Construction Worker at Night

Thirds, graveyard, money shifts — industries such as healthcare, transportation, and securities couldn't function without them. In fact, nearly 15 million people in the United States work full-time night shifts, rotational shifts, and other irregular schedules. Although many people identify as "night owls," that doesn't mean they can easily adjust to a healthy night shift sleep schedule. 

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can already be difficult when you work a regular 9-to-5 job. Switching your work schedule to a time when you naturally want to be asleep compounds the issue of getting enough rest and can lead to insomnia, lethargy, and irritability. Fortunately, you don’t need to suffer from the effects of working night shifts. Here’s how to work night shifts and still stay healthy.

What's the Best Night Shift Sleep Schedule?

The best night shift sleep schedule is any schedule that you follow consistently. "Sleep consistently" sounds like an obvious solution, after all it is something we’re all told to work toward. When you're working the night shift, however, consistency can be the biggest issue with getting to sleep. It can take a while to properly train your body to get onto your night shift sleep schedule.

It's good practice to be in bed as soon as you can once you get off work because natural daylight confuses your body. This can be difficult for people that work the night shift because there are many things such as banking or doctor's offices that do not have late hours. In time you will find a way to accommodate all your appointments and obligations. The most important thing in the beginning of a new night shift is to establish your night shift sleep schedule. If you’re suffering from the effects of working a night shift, you will not be able to care of any obligations properly anyway.

Night shift sleep on days off should not differ from your sleep when you are working. Changing how you sleep on weekends or days off will throw off your night shift sleep schedule. Your goal is to get in and out of bed at the same or as close to the same time as possible every day. Try small steps first, such as setting an alarm for the same time from Monday through Sunday. Regardless of what hours you work, you should generally get seven to nine hours of sleep. If you find that it's difficult to do this even after making your night shift sleep schedule, you can try napping for anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. Even a short nap before you leave work can perk you up and make your commute home safer.

Woman Sleeping During Day With Eye Mask

How to Work Night Shifts and Stay Healthy

Some easy changes to your sleeping space can make a big difference to your quality of sleep. Because you work the night shift, you're going to be sleeping during daylight hours. To avoid the light disturbing your sleep you could put up blackout curtains. Blackout curtains are designed to stop as much light as possible from getting into a room. You could also work on soundproofing your room to the best of your ability. Another good solution to noise disturbances can be a white noise machine.

Your loved ones can also help you when you're working on creating healthy sleep habits. Have your night shift sleep schedule posted in an easy-to-access part of your house for all of your family members. This allows everyone in the house to work around your hours to avoid scheduling appointments for you during your sleeping time or louder activities like vacuuming.

You can also make it a habit to practice good sleep hygiene to counter the effects of working a night shift. For example, taking a bath before you go to bed  as part of your night sleep schedule can help your body start cooling down faster. This could help you fall asleep quicker than you otherwise would.Try these tips to prevent the effects of working a night shift from affecting your sleep quality and well-being.

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