By: Dylan Foster
There’s no denying that sleeping during the day is a bit harder than at night. Not only are our bodies conditioned to rest when the sun goes down, it’s often hard to sleep thinking about all the things you could be doing in the sunshine. But for the millions of overnight workers – police officers, nurses, janitors, air traffic controllers – nighttime snoozing isn’t an option.
Signs of poor sleep
No matter what hours you are able to rest, sleep deprivation symptoms are similar. These
Inability to concentrate
Lack of motivation
Reduced sex drive
Factors that can affect your ability to sleep well range from stress to outside noise. Sleeping on an outdated coil-based mattress can also lead to back pain, which can cause issues with productivity.
Sleep quality improvement
Whether you’ve been working night shift for years or have recently accepted a new position, there are ways to improve your overall sleep quality so you can be more effective at work. Start by looking at your environment.
The most obvious issue that can affect sleep quality is the surface upon which you rest. If you don’t have one already, consider a memory foam mattress, which will eliminate pressure points and keep your spine aligned from your neck to your hips. Since you’re sleeping during the day, light is also a problem you don’t typically encounter at night. According to Nursing Times, the darker the better. Dr. Christopher Masterjohn explains that blackout blinds and heavy curtains are the best way to eliminate light infiltration. Further, you should cover lights from electronics and shut your bedroom off from the rest of the home. If this fails to give you an adequately dark environment, a soft sleep mask can help.
Creating a schedule that’s conducive to restful sleep is exponentially difficult for overnight workers. However, according to Dr. Sophia Bostock, it’s not impossible. The UK-based sleep specialist advocates taking naps prior to a long overnight shift. She cautions, however, that nap timing matters and says you should nap for no more than 15 to 20 minutes if you’re short on time. Deep sleep starts at approximately 30 minutes and it’s much harder to recover once you’ve fallen fully asleep.
Other ways to ensure you get enough sleep include:
Sleep in three hour shifts
Acclimate your schedule over time
Use a melatonin supplement prior to bed
Listen to soundscapes to relax
Shift work disorder and the risks of nighttime work
Sleep is vital to every system in the body. Unfortunately, shift workers tend to suffer with low quality rest, which can negatively impact your overall health and even your ability to drive back and forth to work safely. Shift Work Sleeping Disorder (SWSD) has been linked to cancer gastrointestinal issues, obesity, depression, suicidal thoughts, and cancer.
The American Psychological Association explains that nighttime workers often have an unhealthy attitude regarding the need for sleep. For this reason, the body’s circadian clock is often completely off track. This circadian misalignment can cause problems for those whose careers require split-second decision-making. Working against your natural sleep cycle is an issue that you must learn to overcome if you want to reduce the occurrence of negative side effects, such as crankiness and disease vulnerability.
Sleeping is one of the most important things you can do for your body and mind. But as the unsung heroes who keep the world working after dark, sleep is also an elusive luxury. To get your best rest, keep your environment cozy and comfortable and don’t be afraid to sneak in a few hours when and where you can.
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