Shift work sleep tips.

If you’re anything like me…the older you’re getting, the harder you find it to sleep between night shifts or “turn around” after your last night shift.  I miss the days when I had to set an alarm to get up for my night shifts!

Here are some of my tips for sleeping during the day (between night shifts):

  • If it’s light out when you drive home after a night shift (which it soon will be in Saskatchewan!) wear sunglasses to help block out the bright sunlight.
  • Block out all light from your bedroom.  Either use an eye mask or install blackout curtains to block the sun.
  • Use a white noise machine or fan to help block out sounds from outside if you live on a noisy street….traffic, voices, dogs barking, etc.  You could also use ear plugs, but I always found that they would fall out.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated beverages a few hours prior to the end of your shift.  Some people are more sensitive than others to this, you’ll figure it out by trial and error.
  • Avoid the “nightcap”.  Alcohol is a bad idea before bed.  It may seem to improve sleep initially, but tolerance can quickly develop and can interrupt sleep.
  • This should go without saying, but TURN YOUR PHONE OFF!  Your non-shift working family and friends do not know or understand your schedule so will text or call you right in the middle of your sleep without fail!
  • After my last night shift I know I have to get up by noon in order to be able to “turn around” back to a regular sleep pattern.  I also try to schedule a few appointments and/or spend some time outside to keep me busy and awake for the rest of the day.  I may go to bed early, but by the next day I’m usually good to go.
  • When not working nights and/or you are on days off, try to have a regular sleep pattern (go to bed and wake up at the same time each day) and try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

If none of these tips work for you and you’re struggling with sleeping either before, during, or after your night shifts I would suggest speaking to your doctor.  There are numerous natural sleep aids (herbal teas, supplements, etc.) and prescription sleep aids.  But like any supplement or prescription it is important to talk to your health care provider to fully understand their use and potential interactions with other medications you may be taking.

Hopefully some of these can work for you!  Happy sleeping!


Night Shift Meal Planning

If you’re anything like me, your willpower seems to disappear at night and it becomes way more tempting to stop at your local convenience store and buy up all the candy in sight!  Have you also noticed that very few of the healthy options for meals stay open 24 hours a day?  This is why it becomes even more important to meal plan for your night shifts.  I’ll give you a few tips that have worked for me over the years, keeping in mind that I still “cave in” to those temptations sometimes.  It’s all about keeping it realistic with the 80/20 rule…80% of the time keeping it healthy and planned, and then allowing yourself give into the odd temptation (20%).

Tip 1:
Don’t bring extra money to work.  If this is possible for you, try to only bring some change to buy that emergency cup of coffee that we all need on those long night shifts.  The more money you bring (or worse…bringing your debit or credit card) the more tempted you’ll be to make that poor choice that will likely make you feel gross!

Tip 2:
Bring lots of snacks and less large meals.  If you’re able to, have your large meal prior to coming to work to keep yourself full for most of the night.   Pack healthy snacks to get you through the rest of the night.  Some examples: Fruit, veggies & dip, cheese, nuts, granola bars, homemade muffins (because you then know exactly what’s in them…the muffins from your local coffee shop are basically mini cakes, not healthy muffins!), yogurt, salads, etc.  If you do need to bring a larger meal, make sure it’s something you really like.  Nothing is worse than having cravings for McDonald’s and you’ve packed a meal that you don’t really want to eat.  Also, try to eat it before midnight to avoid feeling sluggish (your body is not programmed to eat a big meal at 0300!).

Tip 3:
Drink lots of water!  Try to keep yourself hydrated on your night shifts…especially if you’re like me and you like your coffee on nights!  The more the better, but I try to finish my 1.14L bottle each shift.  I’m not always successful, but the next day I can sure feel the difference.   Further to this…try to limit the caffeine after midnight in order to try to maintain some normalcy in your circadian rhythm.

The longer you are able to apply some of these tips, the better your willpower will become.  Trust me…I’ve experienced both extremes.  You won’t crave the junk as much, and you definitely won’t feel good when you do choose the junk option.  I challenge you to try one of my tips for your next night shifts!