There is an array of professionals who perform their profession while others sleep during the night. Medical professionals, firefighters, police officers, and delivery drivers are just some of the professions who call night shift their home. Adjusting requires you to sleep during the day and lack of sleep can lead to health problems, stress, and decreased immunity if not done correctly. Here are my top tips that I instituted when I transitioned to night shift.
Tip #1: Schedule and Sleep Consistency
When transitioning to and maintaining a consistent night shift schedule, it’s important to practice consistency.
- Always take a few days off prior to starting your new schedule. Try to stay up as late as you can each night. My first time we stayed up until 1 a.m. then 3 a.m. the following night. It’s a marathon, not a race.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule whether you work or don’t that evening.
- Turn off your phone, television, and all other distractions that would otherwise keep you up.
- Advise family, roommates, lawncare professionals, and housing/apartment management of your sleep schedule. This may lessen the distractions and service calls during the day.
- Purchase a white noise machine or a white noise application on your cell phone. Especially if you live in an area that is noisy.
- Take a short nap prior to your shift if you are unable to get a full eight hours of sleep during the day. This will allow you to stay alert during your shift without feeling overly tired.
Tip #2: Household Lighting
Our body’s internal time clock has evolved around a pattern called the circadian rhythm. This rhythm advises our bodies when to sleep and when to stay awake. If not managed appropriately, our health will ultimately pay the price.
- Light, especially from the sun, plays a major role in the maintenance of this rhythm.
- Use quality, black-out curtains when you sleep to inhibit most of the sunlight during the day. These curtains should be dark and heavy for the best results.
- At night or during your shift, keeping your workplace brightly lit will help maintain the awake portion of the circadian rhythm.
Tip #3: Maintain an Appropriate Diet
You are what you eat! If you haven’t seen the commercials where young children are given junk food before playing sports then turn into whatever they ate, you are truly missing out on the message.
- Use your days off to food prep your meals for the week so you can grab your meals and go. Every meal I packed the following:
- A wrap or healthy main entry (such as rice, vegetables, and chicken)
- Three slices of deli meat with sixteen slices of pepperoni
- A small portion of tomatoes with spicy brown mustard
- One small snack such as a Kellogg’s Pastry Crisp
- One bottle of Powerade Zero
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bed time.
- Avoid sugar and processed foods as these stimulants provide temporary energy surges followed by horrible stimulant crashes.
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats increases and maintains your energy levels.
- Stay hydrated! It’s important to maintain your hydration status throughout your shift. Water helps boost your mood, boost your brainpower, prevent headaches, eliminate waste, and protect against disease. I mean our bodies are made up of 55 to 65% of water. Why wouldn’t we hydrate?
Tip #4: Get Plenty of Exercise and Pay Attention to your Mental Health
Yes, I have heard it all before. How are you possibly going to exercise and focus on yourself when you are trying to adjust to a new schedule. Trust me, I get it. It is extremely important that you make time for yourself, both mentally and physically.
- Try getting in physical activity before or after your shift to see which time gives you more energy and makes you feel better.
- Working night shift can make you feel alienated from your family and friends who do not share your schedule. Combine alienation with poor food choices, lack of sleep, and light deprivation, and you are at risk for depression and other mental health issues.
- Make time for vacations and relaxation. It’s important to practice self-care by making time for yourself.
- Schedule a massage. Personally, I schedule a 90-minute massage once to twice a month as needed depending on how stressful my assignment is.
- Make friends with your night shift co-workers. They will understand your struggle and can help you cope with many of your anxieties and fears.
- Start a personal journey to document your feelings and use it as a reference to maintain your mental health.