Working irregular hours requires you to adjust your mind and body to sleeping during the day.
Night workers get less sleep than day workers and their sleep is less restful. Because sleep is needed to restore and rejuvenate your brain and body so it functions properly, not getting enough good sleep can be dangerous.
How to Sleep Well with Shift Work>
Work Better and More Safely at Night
On night shifts, you’ll be working when your body really wants to sleep, and you’ll become very tired between 2 – 5 a.m. These steps can help you stay alert while you’re working:
- Keep your workplace well-lit; dim lights can make you tired.
- Talk to your co-workers to help everyone be more alert.
- If you’re feeling tired, stand up and walk around or do some type of exercise to exert energy.
- Keep your workplace cool; a warm environment will make your body want to sleep.
- Consume plenty of caffeinated beverages early in your shift.
- Try washing your hands and face to help you stay alert.
- Listen to the radio to keep your mind active.
- Time your meals to keep your energy levels up and help your body adjust to your shift.
- Healthy snacks like fruit, juice and vegetables are good to eat at home or work.
Drive Home Safely After Your Shift
Driving home can be a dangerous situation for shift workers. Shift workers have a high risk of falling to sleep behind the wheel because they’ve been awake for 12 -16 hours, or more, at a time when the body want to rest. If you’re sleepy after your shift, try these steps to arrive at home safely:
- If you can, take a nap before driving.
- Drive defensively: stay alert of your surroundings, your driving and other drivers.
- If you start yawning, blinking your eyes frequently or a feel a sense of tiredness, pull off the road where you’ll be safe from other traffic.
- Walk around or stretch until you feel more awake.
- Consider carpooling, and letting the most alert person drive.
- Use public transportation.
- Keep the car at a cool temperature; using the heater can make you drowsy.
- Driving with the window down and listening to the radio can work for a short time, but for long periods of time it’s not recommended.
Adapting to Shift Work
Some people adapt to shift work easily, but others don’t. Some people simply never adjust to working shifts. Generally, making the transition is easier the younger you are. If the tips above aren’t helping you get the sleep you need and stay alert and safe at work, try talking to your supervisor or manager, your co-workers, staff counselors, or a doctor or nurse.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make sure you get the sleep you need. There is no substitute for it.