Do you work at night or at a rotating graveyard shift? There are about 1.4 million Australians working on non-traditional hours, with 500,000 of them working over rotational shifts. Doctors, nurses, night guards, policemen, emergency mechanic, convenience store clerk, or virtual workers – you name it.
However, working at a graveyard shift is linked to various health issues, including metabolic and hormonal problems, obesity, heart disease, thyroid problems, and cancer. It suppresses the sleep hormone, melatonin, which is critical as it’s your internal body clock.
It’s important to find ways to balance a healthy lifestyle while subjected to working graveyard shifts. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about working at night.
Tips for better sleep
Are you a graveyard shift worker? Let me tell you what – sleep doesn’t come too easy. In fact, your sleep habits may come off and will get your body hormones confused and upset.
So, how to get better sleep? Here are tips to get you started.
Adjust to a new schedule and stick with it
If you’re planning to work at night, make a schedule and adjust your sleeping habits days before. Stick to this sleep-wake schedule so your body can shift adapt naturally. Don’t forget to follow this schedule on weekends as well to train your brain to accept the sleep-wake schedule.
Limit your night shifts
If you have control over your working hours, try to limit the number of your night shifts in a row. For a graveyard shift worker, continuous night jobs will make you more sleep-deprived. Also, if you can avoid frequently rotating shifts, it’ll be easier to adapt to a schedule that rotates from day shift to evening to night rather than the reverse order.
Keep your workplace well-lighted
Exposing yourself to bright light can promote wakefulness. It can help fool your internal clock into telling you to be awake during your new wok hours. The light can assist your body in lowering melatonin production to keep you alert at night.
Lower your caffeine intake
We’re not saying that you should stop drinking a cuppa. It’s just that it’s better to take it during your shift and not by the end of it. This way, you’re more alert during work hours and you can rest upon going home.
Don’t eat full
Having a full stomach at night can throw off your alertness and can make you feel sleepy. It’s best to take dinner light and munch on fiber-rich snacks during your graveyard shift.
Take a bath if you can
If you work at home, you can take a shower just to keep you cool and awake. Another good practice is to wash your face with cold water to promote wakefulness.
Graveyard shifts let you sleep against your rhythm
Do graveyard shifts wreak sleep quality? To answer that question, we must understand how our circadian rhythm is so ingrained to the body’s natural clock to sleep during the night and wake up in the morning.
See, our body likes to operate on a schedule. It does so with lighting. When you expose yourself to sunrise, neurotransmitters send signals that it’s time to wake up. Meanwhile, nighttime darkness calls for the body to rest. When you resist sleep during the night, it messes up your body internal clock called circadian rhythm.
Working at night also wreaks havoc against how your body repairs itself. It’ll be hard to sleep during the day because that’s not how your internal clock works. What’s more, the sun’s natural lighting will send neurotransmitters to your brain saying it’s wrong to sleep during the day, thus worsening your sleep quality.
Rotating shifts are even harsher. Expose yourself to sunlight and nighttime, and sleeping on both ends, will let the body have difficulty in knowing when to anticipate a sleep-cycle schedule and how to produce hormones for sleep, waking up, digestion, and other functions of the body.
Regular and deep sleep is needed so the body can recover from the damage done during the day. Graveyard shifts wreak our sleep erratically and our body doesn’t get the rhythm the way it’s supposed to.
Is having a sleep schedule important despite working at night?
It’s important to stick to a consistent schedule to improve sleep quality. Despite working at night, sleep comes to you in the morning to boosts overall health for graveyard shift workers. Having a sleep schedule further improves:
- Performance at night jobs
- Reduces work-related injuries
- Improves memory and productivity
You are more tired working at night despite getting that much-needed rest. Driving home from work can also be dangerous if you’re sleepy behind the wheel. If you’re going to have a sleep schedule for night works, stick to one that’s consistent. It’ll help train your body to clock in and sleep if you needed it.