10 sleep tips for shift workers
Studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences for shift workers, including firefighters, police officers and medical workers. Here’s a plan to help your body adjust to irregular work hours
Source: Sleep to Be Sexy, Smart and Slim; Reader’s Digest
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. And although there’s no single magic plan that’s right for everyone, there is agreement among sleep researchers that the following strategies will help you get a good night’s sleep. Here’s how to get started.
1. Get your partner on board
Shift work is tough on the entire family. Make sure your partner knows how it will affect him’increased parental responsibilities and household tasks, less time with you’before you sign on for night or rotating work.
2. Give your body a three-day warning
If you’re headed toward a major change in work schedule, begin to alter your sleep time three days in advance.
Let’s say your usual shift is 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and you’re moving to an 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. schedule. If you usually sleep from 3:00 to 11:00 a.m., postpone your bedtime to 5:00 a.m. and sleep until 1:00 p.m. on the first day of the transition.
On day 2 postpone your bedtime to 7:00 a.m. and sleep until 3:00 p.m.
On day 3 postpone bedtime to 8:00 a.m. and sleep until 4:00 p.m.
On day 4 you’ll begin the new 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift. That day sleep from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.’and on every day thereafter.
3. Maintain a schedule
Keep the same sleep/wake schedule on your at-home days as on your workdays, says sleep specialist Kar-Ming Lo, M.D. It will help your body understand when you need to be alert and when you need to sleep.
4. Work clockwise
If you work rotating shifts, ask your manager to schedule succeeding shifts so that a new shift starts later than the last one, recommends the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you’ve just finished a 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. shift, for example, you’ll be more alert and sleep better if the next shift you work is 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
5. Get outdoors
Once you wake up, get outside. Take a walk and sit in the sun. The sun will cue your biological clock that it’s time to be alert.
6. Pass up opportunities
Shift work stresses the body big-time. It puts your health at risk and denies you time with your family. Even if you need extra money, think twice about accepting an opportunity to work overtime or extra hours or skip vacations. The price may be higher than the added income.
7. Get a pickup
Two-thirds of shift workers report driving drowsy after a shift’and drowsy driving leads to 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries in Canada every year. Take the bus, hire a cab, have someone better rested than you are pick you up after your shift and take you home.
8. Make sleep a family effort
Discuss your sleep needs with kids, says Dr. Lo. Tell the kids that ‘Mom’s working hard and she works nights.’ Then ask that they not go into your room unless it’s an emergency. And be sure to specify precisely what is’and what is not’an emergency.
9. Stick to Perrier
If you feel like a nightcap’morningcap?’make it water. Although alcohol may seem to relax you so you can get to sleep more quickly, 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.
10. Forget the quick fix
There isn’t any, although there are plenty of people around who will sell you one. One example: Sales of the herb valerian, which has historically been used to aid sleep, have reached more than a million dollars a year. Yet a review of 37 sleep studies reveals that it doesn’t do a thing.
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