Sleep Tips for the Night Shift

Legs of a young female sleeping in bed
Get enough sleep by the light of day. (Image: Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images)

When you agree to work the night shift, you expect to change your lifestyle only slightly to match the need to sleep during the day in order to sleep at night. But that change of schedule can be easier said than done, warns the National Sleep Foundation. Night shift workers might find themselves tossing and turning when it comes time to hit the hay early in the morning, resulting in insomnia and fatigue. Break the cycle by using sleep tips for the night shift that will get you into bed and prepped for a restful day of sleep.

Sleep Aids

Invest in a few sleep aids that will improve the quality of your sleep in the daytime. Ear plugs may be necessary to block out normal daytime sounds, like passing cars, barking dogs and your family moving around the house. Purchase a large package, and discard after each use.

Blackout drapes can help you block out the daylight so you fall into an easier and more restful sleep. Install them directly over your present window coverings and pull them tight before you go to sleep. A sleep mask may also help to block the light from disrupting your sleep.

Decompression Time

Emergency Nursing World recommends having a decompressing time after work instead of heading home and going straight to bed. Just like someone working the day shift, it's important to take time to relax and unwind, especially after a particularly stressful night. Give yourself 90 minutes to two hours of time to eat something, watch a favorite show or spend time with family before you go to sleep for the day.

Avoid Stimulants

Drinking coffee might help you stay alert while on the job, but it can seriously interfere with your sleep schedule when you drink it less than three or four hours before you're due to go to bed, says the Mayo Clinic. Instead of turning to stimulants to help you stay awake, try ice water or a brisk walk during your break time. Then, when it comes time to go to sleep, you can fall asleep quickly without feeling jittery or hyper.

Keep Your Schedule

One large mistake you can make while on the night shift is switching your schedule on the weekends, says the National Sleep Foundation. While it may be tempting to sleep at night and be awake during the day, it can severely interfere with your internal clock. When Monday arrives, you'll likely find yourself tired throughout work and alert when you should be sleeping. Maintain your schedule so that your body and mind can regulate your sleeping habits. If you need to adjust your schedule because of a new shift, do so gradually, starting several days in advance so you can be awake and aware while at work.

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