Working at Night: How to Manage Your Sleep Schedule for Night Shifts
When you have a night shift coming up, it’s difficult to change your usual routines. In particular, getting enough sleep can be a big challenge. You need to make sure you get enough sleep, as otherwise you could be drowsy on site. If you are too tired, it can lead to accidents and mistakes: whether it’s on site or driving back home.
Everyone has heard you need 8 hours’ sleep a day, but how do you manage that for a night shift? One of the best strategies is to sleep your 8 hours in separate blocks. You could have a 1-4 hour sleep in the afternoon before your shift, and then sleep again once your shift is finished.
How to Sleep in the Daytime
Sleeping during the day can be difficult. Your internal body clock is designed for sleeping at night, and light from the windows or noise outside your room can keep you awake.
- Make your bedroom right for you. Block out the light as much as you can, and think about how to control noise and temperature levels.
- Only use your bedroom for sleeping – try not to work, eat or watch YouTube/TV there. That way, your mind will start to associate entering your room with preparing for sleep.
- If your bedroom isn’t dark enough, try using an eyemask/sleepmask to stop any light from disturbing you. If this is a recurring problem, you might want to invest in blackout blinds or curtains to prevent any light entering your room.
- Make sure your friends and family understand when you are working and when you need to sleep. Let them know what they can do to help you, and ask them to keep noise down during the day.
- Consider turning your mobile off or disconnecting your landline. This will mean you won’t be awakened by an unexpected call. If you don’t want to disconnect yourself entirely, you could always turn the volume down on your ringer and let calls go to voicemail or an answering machine.
- If there is still too much noise, think about using earplugs, white noise or background music to cover up any sounds from outside.
- If you are doing regular night shifts, try to stick to a schedule that works for you. By keeping to this, you can fall into a new routine and make it easier to have high quality, undisturbed sleep.
- When you wake up, enjoy your largest meal of the day. This will give you vital energy and stamina for the shift ahead.
- If you are struggling to get to sleep, don’t panic. Try to rest as much as you can. Conserving your energy and reducing your stress levels is still beneficial and will help you ahead of your night shift.
What to Avoid
- Do not rely on alcohol or tablets to help you sleep. Drinking alcohol before sleeping can lead to poor quality, disrupted sleep where you are likely to wake up earlier. This is not what you want either before or after a night shift! Meanwhile, tablets can be addictive and many doctors would have reservations about prescribing these.
- Avoid exercise before going to bed. Once adrenaline is pumping around your body, it is more difficult to get your energy and temperature levels down to go to sleep.
- A few hours before you sleep, avoid caffeine and energy drinks.
When Your Shift is
Driving home can be the most difficult part of your shift. After a long night shift and packing everything away, your body may feel ready to switch off. Remember that you need to be able to go home safe at the end of the night.
- If you feel tired, stop and take a short nap
where it is safe to do so. Give yourself a short term boost using caffeine or
energy drinks if necessary.
- Avoid driving long distances if you can - consider staying somewhere locally.
- Exercise before your journey to give yourself a
- If you are driving, drive carefully and try not to hurry. Share driving if possible.
When you get back to your home or digs after a night on site, take a moment to relax before you go to sleep. Otherwise, work “buzzing” around your head may stop you from nodding off.
Have a light meal or snack before sleeping, so you don’t go to bed hungry. Don’t eat fatty or spicy food before bedtime – these are harder to digest and so could keep you awake.
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