While most people are getting ready for bed, others are heading out the door for work. Not everyone is on a typical 9-to-5 schedule; according to the American Psychological Association, about 15 million Americans are on the clock for the night shift. Nurses, doctors, factory workers, and even employees in creative fields like radio and television are often hustling before the sun comes up.
Working while the rest of the world is dozing off presents some unique challenges because this routine conflicts with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get quality sleep when you return home from your shift. Here’s how to create a cozy sleep environment and enjoy eight hours of sleep, even if you’re working from sunset to sunrise.
Have a Good Mattress
First things first, you need a quality mattress to ensure that you can always get a good night’s sleep. According to the American Chiropractic Association, sleeping on an older mattress, or a mattress that isn’t suited to your sleep style, can tweak your spine out of alignment, resulting in aches, pains, and inflammation. Furthermore, if you already struggle with back pain, sleeping on the wrong mattress can make it worse.
If it’s time to purchase a new mattress, consider your usual sleep style, your body type, and what makes you feel most comfortable. Are you a side sleeper? Consider a hybrid bed to get the support you need to alleviate back pain. For heavier individuals, an innerspring mattress could be a good choice. And if you sleep on your back, try a moderately firm mattress for maximum comfort.
Aim for Consistency
Even if your schedule doesn’t quite line up with everyone else’s, you can maintain a healthy sleep routine by working consistent shifts. If possible, discuss your schedule with your manager and arrange it so that you can wake up and go to bed around the same time each day. Your body will adjust to this sleep-wake cycle, and you’ll feel more alert and energized at work.
Go Easy on Caffeine
You may find that you need a quick pick-me-up before your shift. To prevent drowsiness, a caffeinated beverage like coffee or green tea can do the trick. However, relying on caffeine to keep you awake throughout your shift can backfire.
Caffeine can stay in your system for four to eight hours after consumption, and if you chug a cup of coffee to get through the end of your shift, you might still be wired by the time your head hits the pillow. Caffeine can be a lifesaver for shift workers, but it’s best to cut yourself off a couple of hours before you head home.
Limit Screen Time
Once your shift ends, it’s time to put away any devices with screens that emit blue light, like your laptop or smartphone. This is because blue light disrupts the production of melatonin in the body.
Melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone,” is released as it gets darker outside, making you feel sleepy at the end of the day. Blue light sends the signal to your brain that you need to stay awake. Looking at screens before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, and insufficient melatonin production can leave you tossing and turning.
If you still find it hard to sleep even after limiting your screen time, you can also try melatonin supplements. These supplements can help in a pinch, but it’s best not to become reliant on them.
Turn Down the Lights
Light coming into your bedroom from the rising sun outside can make it hard to get enough shut-eye after your shift. Invest in blackout curtains to keep the sunlight from streaming in and keeping you awake. You can also slip on a sleep mask. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to cover up the light from any electronic devices in your room.
Even if you’re on the opposite schedule of most of the workforce, you don’t have to run on empty. Shift work can be exhausting, but with the right approach to sleep hygiene, you can show up to work feeling refreshed and productive.
Add Yoga or Meditation to Your Routine
Particularly if you have a hard time winding down after your work shift, these practices can do wonders to bring your mind and body back into balance and ready for bed. There are styles of yoga designed to give you better sleep. Explore different meditation, breathing, and yoga techniques until you find ones you like, that help you get those important 8 hours of sleep.
By Dana Brown
Dana is the creator of Health Conditions, which aims to provide Internet users with helpful content and resources that will lead them to making healthier decisions.
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