While you’re sleeping soundly, millions of Americans across the nation are working to keep our country operating smoothly around the clock. Law enforcement officers and other first responders, healthcare providers, and construction workers make up just some of the workforce keeping us safe and healthy while we snooze. And while long, irregular hours and night shifts are just the norm for some workers, that doesn’t mean they don’t come with some challenges.
When work falls outside the typical 9 am to 5 pm schedule, sleep follows suit. What may be considered a normal bedtime for most people may be the time a shift worker is just getting on the job. Falling short of the recommended 7-8 hours a night could result in fatigue, an increase of work-related injuries and health issues, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
However, sleep is still just as important to this part of the workforce, but getting it isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips to help you get better sleep when you work nontraditional job hours.
Keep it Consistent
Based on your natural circadian rhythm, your body wants to go to bed when it is nighttime. You will need to train your internal clock to stay awake when you’re used to being asleep. One of the best ways to adjust your sleep and wake cycles is to establish and maintain a consistent schedule, even when you’re not working. If you need a little help, REMfresh®, the #1 Sleep Doctor Recommended melatonin brand, was developed with 7-hour sleep support to regulate your sleep and wake cycles, helping you fall asleep at your intended bedtime and stay asleep.
Light Exposure Control
Your circadian rhythm is greatly influenced by light, which is why your body naturally begins to produce melatonin as it gets darker outside and closer to your bedtime. To help you sleep better after a late-night or early morning shift, work on controlling your exposure to light as much as possible. Try keeping yourself exposed to bright light throughout your shift and wear sunglasses on the way home (if it is light out) to help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
Food is Fuel
What you consume throughout your shift can have an impact on how well you sleep once you’re off work. Try to avoid spicy, fried, and processed foods that are more difficult to digest. Instead, opt for fruits, veggies, rice, pasta, and other foods that your body can easily digest so you don’t feel weighed down and sluggish. It is also a good idea to stick to a consistent eating pattern to further help maintain your sleep and wake cycles.
Nap When You Need To
When you work the night shift or have an irregular sleep schedule, naps are your friend. It is important to achieve 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and naps can help you do so. A quick snooze before your shift can help combat and prevent fatigue, and a nap during your work break could help you maintain alertness throughout your shift. However, aim to keep naps no longer than 45 minutes.
Everyone will feel and cope with the effects of working on an irregular schedule differently. It is important to find the right combination of strategies to help you sleep and live better when you’re off the clock.