Keeping a healthy sleep pattern can be challenging for anyone, but for shiftworkers it is near impossible. Working nights, being on call, and early starts, can upset the body clock while potentially increasing the risk to your physical and mental health, along with more accidents and incidents.
Lack of good quality sleep occurs because our body clock is hard-wired to help us sleep at night, while being awake during the day. Working shifts disrupts our body clock from our natural sleep pattern and this is why shiftworkers find it difficult to sleep during the day.
Here is some essential tips to improve the quality of your sleep.
8 Tips and Tricks for Shiftworkers
1 Try not to work more than three nights in a row. You may become increasingly sleep deprived each night and your body clock is impacted, which makes it more difficult to return to sleeping at night after finishing the shift cycle.
2 Use caffeine strategically. All caffeinated drinks may increase focus and energy during your shift, however consumed within four hours before bed can lead to interrupted sleep due to restlessness.
3 Set up the bedroom. Make sure the room is cool, dark and quiet. Black out curtains, ear plugs and a fan can be useful. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress. If your mattress has a dip or bumps it may be time to buy a new one. Most mattresses have a life expectancy of 9 – 10 years. Having a good pillow also helps. If you have a firm mattress then a softer pillow may be better option to support your neck. If you have a soft mattress, consider a harder pillow for optimum comfort.
4 Try an anchor sleep. This means that regardless of your roster pattern you have a regular sleep for a few hours. This will stabilise your body clock and reduce the risk of sleep deprivation.
5 Consider taking magnesium. This is a mineral and can assist with relaxation and ease to sleep. It is the most abundant mineral in the body however the modern-day diet can often leave us deficient in this essential mineral. It can usually be found in foods that are high in fibre (beans and pulses) including whole grains, vegetables (particularly green vegetables), seeds, nuts and dark chocolate. If you think you may be deficient in magnesium, consider taking a supplement.
6 Keep physically active. Physical exercise increases the possibility of quality sleep. The best time to exercise is after your sleep as it increases metabolism and gets you ready for work. Exercise after night shift is not ideal as it will make it more challenging to sleep.
7 Bedtime routine. A regular bedtime routine signals to the brain that you are planning to sleep soon. This may include a hot drink, shower, reading, or listening to music. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing are beneficial to quieten the mind and relax the body.
8 Get rid of blue light. Blue light affects our hormones (melatonin) that help us relax and sleep. Cell phones and computers are high in blue light. Therefore consider removing devices from the bedroom or use an app such as F.Lux that inhibits blue light.