Iowa Sleep Blog

Shift Work and Sleep Patterns

Monday, April 06, 2015

While many of us are preparing for bed at 9 p.m. each night, others are just starting their workday. With the demands of our 24 hour-global society, shift workers have been critical to production and customer service for companies worldwide. Individuals who work what’s called the “third shift,” or hours outside the standard nine to five working day, are considered shift workers. Some of the most popular shift workers are medical professionals, commercial drivers, law enforcement officials, pilots and some factory workers.

Because of this schedule, shift workers can struggle with their sleep schedules, and many feel tired and restless. Here are some tips for getting healthy amounts of sleep while working the night shift:

Stick to a schedule – Working a night shift can be difficult when the people around you, especially family and friends, aren’t on the same schedule. Make it a priority to stick to a consistent sleeping schedule and let people around you know when that time is, and ask they not call or text you. Turn your phone off or on silent so you aren’t woken up by calls or alerts.

Wear sunglasses on your way home or arrange a ride – When you’re headed home in the morning, wear sunglasses to prevent the sun’s rays from naturally waking you up. If you are feeling too drowsy to focus on driving, then don’t. Call a taxi or ask a friend to pick you up. Last year, drowsy driving claimed 1,500 lives.

Turn off distractions – Turn off your phone (or at least to vibrate) and train yourself to not watch TV or be on in front of computer, tablet or phone screens before bed or in the bedroom.

Prep your sleep environment – Black out curtains are must-have in any bedroom, but they are especially important for shift workers to block out light during the day. Set the temperature to a comfortable level and invest in bedding that makes you feel comfortable. A small fan or white noise machine can drown out the sounds of other people.

Drink lots of water and eat regularly – The best things you can do for your body is to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps the body work better, even when it’s feeling tired. Pack a couple small, healthy meals to snack on throughout your shift, if possible. Even though you may be craving it, try to avoid foods high in fats and sugars and instead choose foods that fuel up your body well.

Plan your caffeine – Sometimes, we just really need coffee or other caffeinated beverages to feel awake and energized. Plan out when you want to enjoy your dose of caffeine so you’re not indulging during the second half of your shift in order to still feel sleepy when you get home.

Whether you work night shifts regularly or just the occasional one here and there, it is important to create a schedule to adapt to this sleep routine. If you’re a shift worker who struggles to get a good night’s rest, the sleep doctors at Iowa Sleep can help discover what is holding you back from feeling well rested. Our skilled professionals will help make adjustments to your current schedule to help you achieve a better night’s sleep.