You can learn to handle shiftwork as well as possible. Here’s a few beginning steps:
- Educate your family or roommates about what you’ll need to sleep well. This includes quiet without interruptions during your sleep time, a dark and cool room, and as regular a schedule as possible. Sometimes family members are eager to see you and share their news. When setting a sleep schedule, also schedule a predictable time that you’ll be available to them.
- Make your sleep schedule as consistent as possible over the entire week.
- If possible, take a short nap during the middle of your shift. Be cautious to become fully alert before performing your job duties.
- Use caffeine strategically. Caffeine is more effective as a stimulant if you don’t use it much. During the night shift, take a serving of caffeine at the time when your alertness starts to dip. The caffeine will take effect in about 20 minutes, and does improve measures of performance. Be cautious not to take it so close to bedtime that it interferes with falling asleep.
- Limit light exposure on the commute home by taking public transit and wearing blue light blocking sunglasses.
With these strategies, shiftwork should be easier. A special thanks goes out to all those folks who work nights, keeping the rest of us safe.
The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine focuses on natural care for sleep problems, including shiftwork. More information is at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.