Sleep Hacks for Shift Workers
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important yet underrated factors leading to a healthy life. While the usual culprits of stress and poor lifestyle badly affect your ability to sleep, it is working on rotating night shifts that absolutely wrecks your sleep cycle and leaves you stumbling around with bleary eyes.
And unlike environmental factors, there is precious little you can do to remove the root cause when your sleep deprivation is caused by your job timings, for it depends on the whims and requirements of your employer, not your own personal preferences.
What you can do, however, is work around the unnatural sleep cycle forced by your shifts, and trick your body into falling asleep when you want it. So without further ado, here are some sleep hacks to get you through your ungodly work hours with the proper amount of sleep.
Darkness is Your Ally
Alright, we got a little melodramatic here. But the point remains that to convince your body that it might be a good idea to sleep during the day, you have to trick it into believing it is night.
Black window blinds are obvious, but they need to cover the windows completely, for even minute amounts of light trickling in can spark a reaction from your brain. To that end, avoid even electronic light, which means no flashing phones in your vicinity.
There are dozens of blackout curtains available on Amazon that you can order that won’t allow any light through your windows. Or you could just get a good eye mask and save yourself all the trouble.
It’s All About Food
Apart from light exposure, the single biggest factor contributing to your sleep is your diet. Fatty fast foods, for example, leave your digestive system floundering to get it all broken down in time, interfering with your comfort and ultimately, sleep.
Moreover, high carb, sugary food tends to provide very short lived energy highs, which fade to leave you more tired and fatigued than ever. This is why binging on pizza after a strenuous shift might not be a good idea.
Rather, eat healthy, and space out your meals throughout your waking hours to prevent your digestive system getting swamped all at once. Choose foods that are easy on your stomach, like salads, or rice, along with plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
The Question of Coffee
Everyone has an opinion about coffee. Some swear by it, considering it the very elixir of life, while others avoid it like the plague. In shift workers especially, the legend of coffee is particularly rampant, since many depend on infusions of caffeine to keep them going through the odd shifts.
And therein lies the question: does binging on coffee to stay up during work hours disrupt your sleep cycle later?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
Experts agree that the time to lay off your coffee is at least six hours before you go to sleep to avoid sleeplessness. Also, the stimulant works best in small, staggered doses, not the steaming cuppas you are so prone to gulp down at one go.
The perfect time to drink coffee (conservatively) is while you are still in the early hours of your work shift, when it energizes, keeping you fresh and revitalized through your working hours, but not allowing your body enough time to wind down and get to sleep afterwards.
Yes, you read that right. Your entire sleep cycle should not boil down to one large stretch of uninterrupted sleep – which is hard to manage for shift workers. You should try to relieve your fatigue by taking short naps when you can.
Your work break is the best time to steal a quick nap, no more than 45 minutes long. Naps longer than that end up putting you into a deep sleep, waking up from which increases your fatigue and tiredness.
Even a ten minute sleep break can do wonders for your energy levels and productivity, and help you put your sleepiness to rest for a little while longer.
A disturbed sleep cycle is the biggest casualty of working night shifts. While you can force yourself to eat out of turn, making your body sleep at odd times is much trickier. It doesn’t help that your natural circadian rhythm is cued directly to sunlight, and attempts to make sure that you do not ‘waste’ your daylight hours sleeping.
By following some of the tips above, you might be able to steal a healthy amount of shut eye, and keep soldiering on.
Win 10 Free Pillows!
Enter to win ten free pillows worth $1,000 and give them away to friends and family. Drawing held 30 November and winner will be notified by email.