Sleep the Day Away: How to Handle the Night Shift without Losing Your Mind

nurse at computer working the night shift

Throughout our lives, we are all called upon to make adjustments.

First, there are the natural adjustments of aging. As we pass from childhood to youth to adulthood, we adjust to changes in height, responsibilities, hormones, expectations, and emotional maturity. Second, we face adjustments connected to phases of life. College students face one type of adjustment; new parents face another. On a more day-to-day basis, we likewise adjust to changes in our environments—to the seasons, economy, and culture. We must even adapt to changes within our psyche.

While many changes are ones forced upon us, some come as natural results of our own choices.

One such adjustment relates to working the night shift.

Some people work the night shift by choice and seem to survive with very little trouble. They may even thrive! Others, however, find adjusting to working all night and sleeping all day quite tricky.

Challenges of Working the Night Shift

One significant problem to working the night shift is it puts us out of sync, both with society and with ourselves. While everyone is sleeping, we're working; when everyone wakes up, we're going to bed.

Over time, this scenario can lead to what has been called shift work sleep disorder.

Long-term shift work leads to some relatively severe and adverse side effects, such as higher cancer rates, heart disease, obesity, and other physical and mental issues.

Shift work disorder can increase the risk of mental health problems like depression. This may be because of the disruption of the circadian system (which regulates the release of different chemicals in the body)...If you work irregular hours, you might eventually feel "out of step" with the people in your family or social network. (Sleep Foundation)

While it's clear working the night shift can have serious physical, mental, emotional, and social implications, it's also clear we will probably always have men and women willing to hazard these risks

Why? Because they are much needed.

We will always need doctors and nurses at all hours. Likewise, specific road crews, public safety sectors, and energy providers need people on the clock 24 hours a day.

If you're one of those brave souls, we salute you!

We are not unaware of the sacrifices you're making to keep our society running smoothly.

We are also aware there are specific sleep considerations involved in your current situation.

Sleep Considerations

The exceptional sleep considerations of those who work the night shift are manifold.

Initially, they must go against their body's natural circadian rhythm; that is, the inherent physical, mental, and behavioral patterns that govern us. For the most part, circadian rhythms dictate when we fall asleep, wake up, become hungry, release hormones, regulate body temperature, and so forth. Anyone who has dealt with jet lag due to traveling into different time zones (or even handled the transition to Daylight Saving Time) has felt the shock of acting out of step with circadian rhythms.

The key factor influencing how our circadian rhythms form is daylight; therefore, flipping one's light/dark cycles can have serious side effects for those adjusting to shift work, especially initially.

In addition to adjusting their bodies to new internal rhythms, night shift workers must contend with environmental factors running at odds with their desire to sleep. As has already been mentioned, the sun is often fully risen when a night shift worker turns in to get some sleep. Likewise, family members, housemates, and neighbors will be coming and going throughout the day with all the expected noise and clatter. Young children are especially unforgiving in these matters.

Since the odds seem stacked against getting a good day's sleep, just hoping for the best isn't an option.

Only by being proactive about guarding sleep can shift workers ever hope to thrive under these conditions.

Proactive Steps

The first and most logical step is to consider your sleep environment. Since your body is used to sleeping at night, mimic those conditions as best, you can. Buy heavy curtains—blackout curtains, if possible—to block out the sun.

Second, consider your routines. Be sure to keep a regular meal and hydration schedule, so you never go to bed hungry or thirsty. If possible, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day—perhaps even on your days off. Establishing a regular rhythm goes a long way toward helping your body adjust to its new routine.

Third, if you share living quarters with family, friends, or housemates, be sure to communicate your sleep needs with them. Convincing those around you to be your allies in this area will significantly increase the odds of getting a good day's sleep. When necessary, gently remind them not to yell, slam doors, or blare loud music during certain hours of the day. While not everyone is equally considerate, most people do what they can to accommodate others who live on alternate sleep schedules.

If the steps in this section prove difficult due to circumstances beyond your control, you may want to consider investing in a sleep mask and earplugs. Those small measures, while requiring an adjustment period to get used to wearing them, may go a long way toward helping you both fall asleep and stay asleep.

We Can Help

Here at Nest Bedding, we want to do whatever we can to help you meet your sleep goals. Whether your current situation requires adjusting to the night shift, maximizing your comfort levels, or seeking out tips and tricks to achieve the best possible sleep environment, we're always here to help.

The most basic way we can help is to provide the best mattresses at the most affordable rates. If you would like to learn more about our premium products, you can always stop by one of our showrooms at any time. Our friendly and non-pushy staff is ready and willing to answer whatever questions you might have.

You can also contact us online at any time.

We look forward to serving you.

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