February 17, 2017
Living in a 24-hour culture means the modern world never sleeps. A 3 AM stroll around the city feels like 5 PM at any given day. You can get breakfast all day, order take-out at midnight, and idle in a coffee shop until dawn. This also means that the 8-to-5 shift has long gone. People work and sleep at different times. Body clocks all over the world are screwed.
The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nearly 15 million people work on night and rotating shifts. This means that millions of workers around the world are exposed to shift work disorder. Employees must by all means work on avoiding shift work disorder because according to the Sleep Foundation Organization, this can cause chronic sleep deprivation where a person never gets the right amount of sleep. Chronic loss of sleep has serious implications to health and productivity.
Coping with shift work isn’t a simple case of “you’ll get used to it.” The body doesn’t work that way. For shift workers, even the most basic human activity of sleeping doesn’t happen just like that. But you are the boss of your body and there are things you can do so that it ultimately adjusts to your lifestyle.
You can’t be sleeping at 10 PM one day and then 2 PM the next. You can’t just do that to your system. If you know that you’ll have a change in work schedule, begin altering your sleep time at least three days in advance. Postpone your bedtime gradually if you must so that your body won’t be shocked with the sudden changes.
A helpful sleep tip for shift workers is to avoid long commutes as much as possible. Live closer to work if you can. Long hours on the road will eat into your sleep time. It is also not recommended to sleep on the bus on the way home because that will only confuse your circadian clock even more.
Avoid bright lights on your way home to get your eyes accustomed to darkness even before you hit the sack. Wear dark sunglasses or a hat to shield your eyes. Put down your cellphones as the light coming from these devices would keep you alert. Also, don’t make stopovers to run errands. Go home and go to sleep as quickly as you can.
If you sleep during daytime, don’t let sunlight into your room. Use blackout blinds and dark-colored curtains. Sunlight is a body clock stimulator that even if you close your eyes, the light entering the room would tell your brain that it is still daytime. It also generates heat, so make sure you get a good bed foam that drives the heat away if you can’t keep the lights out.
At the same time, make your room as comfortable as you can. Do not compromise with mattresses and get a high-quality bed foam. A foam that wicks moisture away and has cooling properties would be very helpful. The AstraCool Collection of Uratex Philippines features accessories that keeps you refreshed while you sleep. The AstraCool bedsheet and comforter transfer excess heat away from the body and gives an instant cooling sensation upon contact on skin.
Keep your head cool too with an AstraCool pillow case that has cooling qualities. Notice how you sleep faster and better when you lay your head on the cool side of the pillow? Now, you can have that sensation whichever side you turn.
One of the more common sleep hacks is avoiding caffeine before bedtime. But still, a lot of shift workers need to be reminded. Caffeine is a good way to start your day (whenever that is) but it also keeps your mind and body alert even when they shouldn’t be.
Shift workers must also not be tricked into drinking alcohol. Yes, they can make you feel dizzy and sleepy. While alcohol may make you sleep easily, it will also wake you up in the middle of your sleep causing restlessness throughout your work hours.
Coping with shift work must be a family effort. If you have kids, discuss your sleep needs with them. Ask them to not go into your room unless there’s an emergency and make sure they understand what makes an emergency or they will be waking you up every time they can’t peel open a candy. Get your partner on board too. Ask your family or other members of the household to minimize noise and limit phone calls.
One of the truly effective ways on how to avoid shift work disorder is to set and stick to a sleep-wake schedule. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Some workers on the night shift sleep longer on days off and believe that doing so reduces their “sleep debt.” But the truth is that you are only confusing your body even more. Strictly implement the sleep-wake schedule on work weeks, weekends, and days off. Give your body a sense of normalcy.
The first few days are going to be difficult. You’ll find it hard to sleep and you’re likely to be interrupted two hours into dreamland. But don’t force it. Most people lie awake, tossing and turning, and just end up getting even more frustrated. If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Get up and do something else for 20 minutes then try again. Just make sure that the activity is not too strenuous. Read a chapter, drink water or just walk around the house.
If you work on rotating shifts, it is better to have a new shift scheduled later than the last one and work clockwise. If your usual shift is 4 PM to 12 AM, bargain for your new shift to 12 AM to 8 AM. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, working clockwise will keep you more alert and will help you sleep better.
There are really no quick fixes to repairing your sleep patterns. You can take pills or vitamins but that would only make you hopelessly dependent on them. It takes commitment and dedication to a healthier lifestyle to finally repair your messed up body clock and help your body adjust to rotating shifts at work.
While there are no short cuts, these sleep hacks can help your body adjust to irregular and rotating shifts if you only religiously follow them. Your work hours may not be traditional but you can still make it work if you make the disciplined effort to squeeze in all the sleep you need.