Coping with Night Shifts and Sleep

If you think catching up on a good night’s sleep has been a daunting task for you, think about the many who work non-traditional night shifts. While many of us are fortunate enough to run around a fixed work hour’s day schedule, some industry laterals like Medicine, Hospitality, Security and Maintenance require people to work night shifts.

The perils of night shifts are many such as facing challenges working non-traditional hours, people may find it difficult to keep up with friends and family. Fear of trouble in organizing your time and activities looms large and physical health may also suffer due to change in biological clock. Night shift workers are bound to find it difficult to get the sleep they need to stay well-rested. This means they are more likely to get sick; it also makes it perplexing to stay alert on the job. This can hurt one’s performance, it can also put you in danger. Being tired increases chances of a work-related injury. Even driving home from work is a risk when you are sleepy.

Sleep specialists at The London Sleep Centre Dubai believe that lack of sleep can have a negative impact on various aspects of our lives. However, managing lack of sleep caused due to night shifts is possible. Dr Irshaad Ebrahim (Medical Director, The London Sleep Centre Dubai) shares some tips that work:

· Eat & Drink: Our body and mind is not trained to eat and drink once it is supposed to sleep. However, when we work in the night, the opposite happens and we need to fuel our body with healthy food and water, to keep it going constantly. More than eating, it’s drinking of water bit that one needs to take care of. It is hard to be high functioning when one is dehydrated.

· Plan the caffeine: Who isn’t a coffee drinker? But just like we avoid drinking coffee closer to bed time, plan your coffee intake for your night shifts. Knowing too much of caffeine does more harm than benefit, sip into the cup exactly half way through the shift to remain alert. This way, it will not intrude into sleep schedule until one reaches home

· Black out: The body reacts to sunlight and all kinds of artificial lights. So if one wants to catch up on right snoozes once back home, invest in good quality curtains that block bright sunlight. Stop checking phones and use of I-pads for a relaxing and complete sleep

· Hush the noise: It is bound to be noisier during the day and nearby construction sites, alarms, phone rings and door bells could intrude sleep. It is best to inform people around about the rest after a hectic night’s shift, to avoid surprise arrivals at home. Get a pair of ear-plugs to avoid noises that are beyond control

· Avoid Alcohol: It’s a myth that alcohol helps sleep. It may be a sleep inducer but does disrupt REM sleep which impacts how well-rested and functional one would be the next night shift

· Practice sleep hygiene: Just as we develop a sleep-wake routine for traditional work shifts, working in the night demands the same. Though the body clock demands to stay awake when it is sunny, one can train the body and mind to sleep during the day if one maintain the timeline and sleep hours strictly

· Go straight to bed: Another good way of practising sleep hygiene is to go straight to sleep once home. More exposure to sunlight, more chances to feel tempted to ditch sleep. It helps sleeping for couple of hours before one wake up for a healthy grub and then go back to sleep again after a daily dose of sunlight.

· Set boundaries: It is also a good idea to let friends and family know how important sleep is because of a night shift. Request them to exclude you from avoidable outings such as shopping, movies etc. Also, invite no courier deliveries during sleep time

· Pump it out: Exercise at least every other day but after sleep. Daytime sleepers should avoid early morning exercise, which can promote wakefulness during the day

A little planning and discipline is all that’s required for night-shifters to catch up on a good day’s sleep.

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