What do doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers and fire-fighting staff all have in common?
They are all at risk of sleep disorders. If you work the NHS night shift or often rotate shifts, you may share that risk. Shift work twirls the dials on your body’s biological clock until it can’t tell when it should wake you up and when it should let you sleep. In return, this can lead to various issues.
Working at night or irregular shifts can keep you from getting the critical snooze-time that most daytime workers take for granted. As a result, a lack of sleep can affect your memory, and the ability to focus can become impaired. Sleep-deprived shift workers can often get irritable or depressed, resulting in their relationships and social life suffering too.
If your job requires that you work night shifts or hours other than the traditional 9 to 5, you need to pay close attention to your sleep.
These tips can help you get a quality, restful sleep:
1) Avoid bright lights
Avoiding bright lights on your way home from work will make it easier for you to fall asleep once you hit the pillow. Don’t stop to run errands either, tempting as that may be.
2) Limit caffeine
Drinking a cup of coffee at the beginning of your shift will help promote alertness. Try not to consume caffeine later in the shift, or you may have trouble falling asleep when you get home.
3) Block out the sunlight after an NHS night shift
Use blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block sunlight when you sleep during the day. Sunlight is a potent stimulator of the circadian rhythm; even if your eyes are closed, the sunlight coming into the room tells your brain that it’s daytime.
4) Anchor sleep
After working the NHS night shift, fine-tune your body clock into your sleep with anchor sleep. Aim to have at least four hours sleep at the same time every night/morning (e.g. 3-7am).
5) Helpful remedies
Lavender, passionflower, hops, orange blossom, Scot’s pine, camomile and peppermint all claim to promote sleep. And milky nighttime drinks really do help bring on rest.
6) Keep cool
Maximum sleepiness occurs when your biological clock temperature is at its lowest. Ensure your duvet compliments the ideal sleeping temperature for you. If you are too cold or too warm, restful sleep will be difficult to achieve.
7) Speak to your manager
If you work rotating shifts, ask your manager to schedule succeeding shifts so that a new shift starts later than the last one. If you’ve just finished a 3pm to 11pm shift, for example, you’ll be more alert and sleep better if the next shift you work is 11pm to 7am.
8) Discuss your sleep needs with your kids
Tell them that you are working hard and sometimes work nights and ask them not to come into your room unless it’s an emergency. And be sure to specify precisely what is – and what is not – an emergency.
9) Nightcap? After an NHS night shift, make yours a water
Although alcohol may seem to relax you so you can get to sleep quicker, what it actually does is disrupt your sleep later in the night. As a result, you get less sleep and sleep that’s less than refreshing.