When is the Best Time to Sleep When Working Night Shifts?

When is the Best Time to Sleep When Working Night Shifts?

If you regularly work night shifts, you may find it difficult to ensure you are getting enough sleep during the day. While good sleep hygiene and a regular schedule will improve your chances somewhat, you can improve the overall quality of your sleep by utilising certain hours of the day.

During a Night Shift

Preparation is important to ensure you get the best sleep possible when working night shifts. If you’re usual shift begins late in the evening, you should aim to replicate the natural conditions of a day/night cycle as much as possible. The lack of exposure to sunlight is one of the biggest issues facing night shift workers, so you may want to consider investing in a UV lamp to help dupe your body clock into thinking you are kicking off an ordinary day.

Many night shift workers tend to lean too heavily on caffeine and other stimulants to keep them active during their working hours. There’s nothing wrong with this during the earlier hours of your shift, but you should avoid consuming caffeine after a certain point. If you are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, avoid drinking any during the six hours prior to your planned bedtime, regardless of what time of day that will be.

Once your night shift has finished, aim to get home as quickly as possible and avoid light exposure as much as you can. This is fairly easy during the autumn and winter months, but may prove difficult during the summer. Sunglasses can be useful in blocking out light during your return commute. Avoid running any errands before heading home, such as stocking up on groceries or taking care of the school run.

Heading to Bed

Once you have returned home after a night shift, you should aim to get to bed as soon as possible. Ideally, you should be in bed no later than an hour after your shift finished. If your shift began at 10-11pm, you should be looking to be in bed no later than 8am. To achieve the best quality sleep possible, you should bed down in a quiet room with blackout blinds or curtains. Earplugs are also important if you want to block out noisy distractions from the outside world.

Once in bed, aim to sleep for around seven hours. You may find it difficult to enjoy eight hours of sleep, even when kitted out with earplugs and sleep masks. You should be aiming to set your alarm for around 3pm. After waking, spend the next hour eating breakfast and exposing yourself to sunlight. This will help your circadian rhythm adjust to your unusual working hours and replicate morning conditions. If you are working night shifts during the winter months, you may find it difficult to receive enough natural sunlight in the late afternoon. In this case, bright lit interiors can be a good compromise.

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