As most of us are settling in for the night, night shift workers are clocking in for a long shift ahead. In many industries, the ‘graveyard’ and ‘third shift’ workers are a vital part to operations. These workers make up approximately 3.2% of the workforce in the United States, some also working on a rotating schedule.
For those who work night shifts, there are many obstacles including getting good sleep while the rest of the world is awake, family life balance, and attending to life business during ‘normal’ working hours, just to name a few. Working night shifts can lead to an imbalance in one’s natural circadian rhythms causing sleeplessness, chronic fatigue, and lead to Shift Worker Sleep Disorder.
Here are a few tips to help you, or the night shift worker in your life, live in a healthier work/life balance:
When you are done with work, avoid bright lights on the way home. Keeping light levels low will make it easier for you to fall asleep once you climb into bed. Consider wearing dark sunglasses to shield your eyes from the morning light (only if you can safely do so).
Adhere to eating at specific times of day, regularly. Eating at the same times helps maintain the body’s clock. Use caffeine wisely, as to not contribute to any sleep issues. Eat high protein foods before the start of a shift to give you energy and try not to go to sleep on a completely empty stomach.
Remove as much noise and light from your sleeping location as possible. This could include sun blocking curtains or shade, an eye mask, ear plugs, noise canceling headphones, or even utilizing a white noise machine. Attempt to get a solid 7- 9 hours of sleep between shifts.
Create a communication plan with your family and friends. This could be a whiteboard near the front door, a certain time of day you text each other, or a weekly dinner to discuss timelines. Keeping your connections to those you care about is important to your overall health.
Moving the body is important, but make sure to do so before a shift, as exercise after will most likely lead to increased adrenaline and keep you from getting to sleep.
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