For you, sleep isn’t just crucial for your personal well-being — it’s also crucial for the well-being of the people you work with and for. Whether you are a nurse, factory worker, doctor, or security guard — or any other type of shift worker, for that matter — sleep can sometimes seem like a dream. Once you have a good rhythm down, something changes and it’s all fuzzy and hazy, like waking up from a dream you just can’t remember. Some shift workers just become resigned to think they’ll never get good sleep, that it is simply not part of their job.
The truth is, you can and should be getting restful, quality sleep. Whether you are permanently on night shifts or rotate evening, nights, and overnights, you can develop habits and patterns that help you get better sleep. It may be challenging at times, but it’s not impossible.
Sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress
If you are standing on your feet for the majority of your shift, consider getting a good mattress that will help your body feel more energized and rested. Nurses and factory workers often experience back pain, chronic leg pain, and aches in their knees, hips, and joints. A memory foam mattress can help relieve pressure points, align the spine, support the lower back and prevent the onset of more discomfort.
Keep Your Sleep Schedule
While it may not be convenient for family and friends, sticking to your daytime sleep schedule even on your days off is the best way to maintain quality sleep. Every time you switch from sleeping during the day to the night, you throw off your body’s ability to settle into a cycle that allows you to get the deep sleep needed to fully rest and recover. Constantly switching up your sleep patterns can cause exhaustion, dampen memory, and slow cognitive processing.
Make It Night
Our bodies are naturally synched to sleep at night, so for folks working evening and overnight shifts, the best sleep comes when you convince your body that day is night. Use blackout curtains in your bedroom, and consider wearing an eye mask to sleep. Purchase a sound machine that mimics nighttime noises, especially if you live in an area where daytime comes with heavy sounds of traffic. Also, keep the temperature in your room cooler.
Wind Down Gently
You maybe be tempted to come home and try to sleep right away, but your mind and body need a little time to decompress if you want restful sleep. When you create a bedtime routine, your mind has time to process and let go of the workday, so you aren’t holding on to any stimulating emotions that prevent you from either falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. You can do some relaxing yoga, meditate, take a warm bath, or use aromatherapy. Relaxing your senses will send a signal to your body that it’s time to slow down.
Get Eight Hours
Commit yourself to at least eight hours of sleep every night. You might be tempted to be more social or manage other responsibilities after shifts that start your days off, but try to avoid falling into that habit. Whenever possible, make the effort to get a full night’s rest, whatever that means for you. Typically, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, but there are a lot of individual factors that influence your own needs. For example, the physical and mental strain of your job can influence how much sleep you need.
From sleeping on the right mattress to sleeping for the right amount of time, getting a good night’s rest is more challenging for shift works than people on a regular nine-to-five routine. With a little planning and commitment, you can get the sleep you need and the recovery you deserve.