If you work the night shift, or graveyard shift, you may find it impossible to feel well rested when you have to sleep during the day. This article will give tips on how to be able to work the night shift and be able to get a good night’s sleep during the day.
Our society can not function without people working around the clock; the world cannot shut down at 10:00 P.M.. This is unfortunate for those that work the night shift and for society because accidents due to night shift errors is very common. Lack of sleep is thought to be the blame in the 1986 Chernobyl and 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant melt downs. Also, in 1986 the Columbia space shuttle nearly had a fatal launch due to “operator fatigue” of a night shift worker. In a 1988 study the Wall Street Journal reports; there is an estimated 70 billion dollars of lost productivity and mistakes due to fatigued night shift workers.
Experts now realize that sleep loss is dangerous and that night shift work has different effects on sleep, health and work performance. Night shift workers may have increased sleep disorders, gastrointestinal complaints, ulcers, heart problems, high blood pressure depression, mood swings, substance abuse and fatigue.
Most people need 8 hours of sleep a day to feel rested. Parts of the nights sleep are spent in light sleep stages and the other parts of the night are spent in deep sleep stages. The deep sleep portion is the most important time of the sleep process where you nourish and restore your brain and body functions. With out the deep sleep you will not feel rested. Through out the night we go back and forth from deep to light sleep. We stay in the deep for about 45 minutes and then if we are deeply disrupted we come back up into light sleep. It is normal to have five 45 minutes deep sleep cycles in an 8 hour period. Anything that upsets these cycles will cause sleep problems.
If you work the night shift and sleep during the day, there are many things that can disturb your deep sleep and awaken you during your light sleep phase. Noise is the biggest problem. Daytime sleepers have to contend with noisy neighbors, children, traffic, lawn mowers and such. Noise is the most common complaint of people who sleep during the day; so, noise prevention should be given top priority. When looking for a home to rent or buy, always look for one in a quiet neighborhood. Look at the house after school hours and on Saturday when the neighborhood kids are home from school and day workers are home mowing their lawns. Look at the house more than once at different times of the day. Between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M. during rush hour traffic is a good time too. Make sure the house is not near any train tracks, noisy factories, or airport fly-bys. Make sure the bedroom is in a location as to not be near the street or noisy neighbors. Look in the backyards neighboring the house to see if there are any dogs that will bark during the day. If there is open properties near by, check to see if there will be construction in the future that could disturb your sleep. Check to see if there are dual pane windows in the house, they not only reduce cold and heat but noise as well. Wear ear plugs to block out all noise. It is also important to turn off your phone ringer and disconnect your door bell.
Another sleep depriver is too much light. Our body’s entire cycle is based upon light and dark. For millennia we have been sleeping in the dark and waking in the light. If you are doing the opposite of this set body program, you are fighting against generations of programming. Since sunlight will disturb your day you should choose a house where the bedroom is on the north side of the house. This side is often in the shade. If you are renting, make sure you ask if you can put mini blinds on the windows to block out the light. Wear a black eyemask to further block out the light. You do not want any light coming in through your eyelids while you are sleeping. You can put dark paper, foil or tinting on the windows to darken the room.
Not being able to come home and unwind after work is another problem night shift workers face. When you work the day shift you are able to come home and unwind and relax for about 6 hours before you go to bed. Night shift workers usually come home and get right into bed bringing all the stress of work with them. It is important to wind down and distance yourself from a stressful job before you try to sleep. Give yourself at least an hour of doing something you enjoy. Eat breakfast, watch a morning show, listen to music or read a book. Or, go for a run or do some form of exercise. Take a hot shower to relax yourself. Try to set a routine that stays the same everyday, if possible. Come home, do the same thing every morning. Get into bed at the same time every morning and wake up at the same time every afternoon.
If you have children in the home you need to have a family meeting to talk about the noises that children make. Most small children do not understand what quiet is. Play a couple of whispering games to teach them. Older children are capable of being quiet. Give rewards to them for being quiet. Buy head phones for their TV’s and stereos so they can still listen to their music with out disturbing you.
For most night shift workers it is wise to stay on the same sleep schedule, even during the weekends. If you work 5 days a week for 8 hour shifts it would be very difficult to switch to sleeping at night on the weekends and back to days during your work week. If you work a compressed schedule of 4 – ten hour shifts it is easier to switch your sleep schedule because you have three days to do it in. Use naps to make the transitions easier, on the day you get off work sleep only 4 hours. Then get up and do some fun things with your friends and family and go to bed when they do. Do this for the next three nights. The day you go back into work, take a 2 or 3 hour nap in the afternoon to make sure you will be alert during work.
Written by Donna Theobald – © 2002 Pagewis