Nurses, police officers and security guards are just a few of the professionals who are often on duty during the night shift. While working overnight to serve others is noble and sometimes necessary, this type of shift work can be difficult to manage — and even poses some health risks. Whether you are new to the evening roster or you’ve been working nights for a while, you may need assistance with acclimating yourself to the schedule.
We’ve put together some tips to help you adjust better so you can focus on your job.
Working the Night Shift? 7 Tips to Help you Adapt
Schedule Your Sleep
You schedule your dentist’s appointments, dinner reservations and family get-togethers — so why not pencil in your sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is helpful to keep the same schedule for rest, even on weekends. This is especially true if you are new to the night shift since it will take some time for your body to adjust.
If you are ready for bed during the late morning, lie down at that same time each day. Adults ages 26 to 64 should sleep for a total of seven to nine hours a night, while workers over 65 should aim for seven or eight. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. They can evaluate your health, give you more tips for daytime rest and provide you with a sleep study as necessary.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
While coffee or tea can be useful for helping you stay awake during your night shift, you must watch when you consume it. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages about halfway through your shift. While you will still benefit from the pick-me-up until your work is over, you will prevent over-caffeinated sleeplessness once you arrive home. In addition to timing drinks appropriately, consider eating small meals or a series of nutritious snacks throughout your evening.
A handful of almonds or package of apple slices may cause you to feel less sleepy than, say, lasagna or a couple slices of pizza. Choose as many fruits and vegetables as you like, and consider incorporating protein and healthy fats. Avoid sugary or salty snacks, which will increase fatigue and lead to poor overall health.
Install Darkening Blinds and Shades
If your bedroom is bright or facing the sun, it can be nearly impossible to sleep. Conquer an abundance of natural light by installing room-darkening blinds or blackout shades. Like the shades you find in a hotel room, these fixtures will make you feel like you’re resting at night, no matter what time of day it is.
There are a variety of options based on your functional and style preferences. If you require total darkness, vinyl blackout roller shades come in several colors and include standard or reverse wall mounting. They will also eliminate 99 percent of light, creating a great environment for sleep. Vertical blinds are also a great choice for blocking out the brightness.
Wear a Sleep Mask
While you’re installing your darkening blinds or blackout shades, pick up a sleep mask. Wearing a cover over your eyes will help to fully eliminate bright light. Know that you are not limited to simple cotton or cloth styles. Satin masks are lightweight and soft, while contoured designs help you stay cool and allow plenty of space for eyelashes and eyelids to move.
If you suffer from headaches or tension, try an acupressure mask. This product applies gentle pressure and cools the eyes to relieve migraines and stress headaches. A quick internet search will turn up a plethora of choices, like innovative masks that wrap around the entire face or feather-light models made entirely of memory foam.
Turn Off Your Phone
Even if you keep your phone on vibrate, buzzing from text messages and social media alerts may keep you from getting into sleep mode. Instead of becoming distracted, toggle your smartphone’s do not disturb feature or turn your phone off completely. While placing your device in the off position is a sure way to get the rest you need, you may have a child at school or a loved one to care for.
Most phones allow you to customize the do not disturb feature so that it allows certain numbers or types of communication to filter through. That way, you will not receive notifications from most of your contacts but will be alerted if the school nurse or assisted living facility needs you.
Monitor Your Health
Because working the night shift can lead to insomnia and poor nutrition, it is important for you and your doctor to monitor your health. Visit your physician’s office for routine checkups so they can watch your blood pressure, weight and overall stress level. Regular exercise, a healthy diet plan and calorie monitoring will help keep you in top shape. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and walking in nature will allow you to stay well while working a stressful night shift.
Your co-workers may have tips for your position or shift. Seek support from your colleagues or leadership team to understand how they handle the job. You can also seek advice from a life coach or counselor, who can help you manage the unique challenges that come with working at night and sleeping during the day.
If you have children or other additional responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Your spouse, friends or neighbors may be able to help you with babysitting or chores while you get some rest. Remember, your health is important to your career and family. Putting yourself first will help you adjust to the night shift and stay well over the long term.
While making the switch to the night shift can be difficult, there are many ways for you to make an easier transition. By caring for your physical, mental and emotional health, you can adjust faster and ensure you thrive, day and night. A few small changes to your bedtime routine will also make a big difference.
Have you ever worked a night shift? How did you stay healthy?
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