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5 Sleep Tips for Night Shift Workers

5 Sleep Tips for Night Shift Workers

Shift work is demanding – and working the night shift is more common than many think. 

Up to 20 percent of workers work either all night shifts or rotating day and night shifts, according to recent research. 

Over time, some may develop Shift Work Sleep Disorder, a condition that leads to both cognitive and physical impairments that can lead to dangerous errors and accidents. 

Lack of sleep is not only dangerous for you, it places everyone else around you in danger, too. 

Dangers of Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Disrupted sleep quality is more serious than feeling groggy and run down at work. 

Lack of sleep not only hinders your productivity and quality of work; it also makes you more susceptible to accidents and other health problems. 

For instance, as many as 40 percent of shift workers develop Shift Work Sleep Disorder, a condition characterized by insomnia, depression, and concentration issues along with an excessive urge to sleep both at work and off the clock. 

An infographic explains shift work sleep disorder

As a result, careless and dangerous mistakes in the workplace are more likely to run rampant. That’s not all, though. 

The risk of additional health illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, obesity, and even certain cancers is proven to be higher in those working night shifts, according to a 2014 study.

Separate 2020 research found that nurses working the night shift had a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to participants working shifts during the day. 

Sleep deprivation caused by working unpredictable or overnight shifts also increases your risk of mental distress. 

In fact, those who sleep less than six hours each night are 2.5 times more likely to experience frequent mental distress than those who regularly slept more than six hours per night. 

That said, mental distress commonly worsens sleep quality, leading to a chain reaction that’s hard to break. 

So what’s the solution? For starters, the best sleep schedule for night shift workers starts with setting firm boundaries around sleep. 

1. Set Firm Boundaries Around Sleep

If you aren’t strict about your bedtime, it’ll be harder to keep a consistent one. 

While it may be tempting to run errands after work during the day if you work at night, stimulating activities will further keep you awake. 

Even household chores or moderate exercise too close to bedtime may cause you to feel wired when you should feel tired. 

People who engage in high-energy activities like high-intensity exercise within an hour of bedtime often experience diminished sleep quality and insomnia. 

Set firm boundaries around mentally and physically preparing for bed, regardless of the time of day or night. 

Man wearing green shirt while sleeping

Let your partner, family members, or housemates know your schedule, along with which hours you’ll be working and which hours you’ll be sleeping. 

Ask them to refrain from any noisy activities during your sleeping hours so that you’ll be able to rest undisturbed. 

If you happen to live with noisy roommates or family members, harness the power of white noise to drown out household sounds as you sleep. 

2. Block Out Disruptive Noise

If you work overnight shifts, most people will be awake when you’re settling in for sleep. 

Therefore, you might hear your neighbor mowing their lawn or bustling traffic in the street while you’re trying to rest. 

White noise offers a method to drown out disruptive sounds that interrupt your sleep. 

Aside from physically drowning out other sounds, white noise is proven to help you fall asleep faster than usual. 

One study found that white noise helped listeners fall asleep nearly 40 percent faster when compared to non-listeners.

You can either listen to white noise through a speaker, white noise machine, or straight from your smartphone. 

Woman wears headphones while laying in bed

If you prefer headphones, there are many fabric ones on the market designed for comfortable wear during sleep. 

Moreover, other colors of noise exist across different wavelengths, like pink noise that contains a frequency similar to the sound of rustling leaves

With your sense of hearing soothed, don’t forget to turn your attention to your vision. 
Even the smallest amount of light can keep you from falling asleep. 

3. Set Your Sights on Limited Light Exposure

Light exposure has a direct influence on our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour clock that manages different bodily processes like sleep. 

This rhythm is controlled by the pineal gland’s interpretation of light exposure through the eyes. 

For example, when exposed to morning sunlight, the pineal gland suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. 

In the absence of light, however, the pineal gland ramps up melatonin production, leading to feelings of sleepiness. 

Sunlight influences our circadian rhythm and melatonin production

But what if you sleep while the sun is out and work while the sun is down?

The best sleep schedule for night shift workers includes blocking out sources of light as you sleep. 

On the other hand, it’s just as vital to seek out light during productive hours rather than sitting in the dark. 

Blackout curtains are a must to ensure that no sunlight enters your bedroom as you rest. As a result, you’ll keep your circadian clock aligned with your schedule. 

However, sunlight isn’t the only light source you should avoid before or during bedtime. 

Blue light emitted by electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, and televisions mimics sunlight, further contributing to sleep deprivation.

If you get off the clock when the sun is out, wear blue light-blocking sunglasses to avoid becoming more alert than necessary on your way home. 

Once you get home, draw the curtains and limit screen time as bedtime nears. 

Moreover, focus on trying to cluster your night shifts together to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm once it’s set. 

4. Group Night Shifts Together

For some who work night shifts, they may be rotating shifts – meaning that you may alternate between night shifts and day shifts. 

Research has found that nurses working rotating shifts reported lower job satisfaction, reduced sleep quantity and quality, and frequent fatigue. 

Due to the inconsistencies in their schedule, they were also at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and psychological disorders when compared to workers who weren’t rotating shifts. 

Tired employee lays at desk

If you can cluster night shifts together, it becomes easier to stick to a consistent sleep schedule that prevents sleep deprivation and additional stress on the body and mind. 

Request that night shifts are clustered together rather than spread apart if you can. 

However, if you do have to work rotating shifts, try shifting your sleep schedule in anticipation of the switch in your schedule. 

Consider a post-work snooze after a night shift before going home if your workplace offers a place to nap. 

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, with 21 percent of all fatal accidents caused by tired driving, on average. 

If you feel too drowsy to drive and your workplace doesn’t offer a napping spot, nap in your car before driving away. 

Whether you’re just taking a post-work snooze or you’re turning in for a full chunk of sleep, address sleep-disordered breathing for enhanced sleep quality. 

5. Shut Your Eyes, Shut Your Mouth!

Many people think that when it comes to sleep, quantity means more than quality. 

But that’s simply not true. If the sleep you’re getting isn’t high quality, you’ll still feel sleep-deprived no matter how many hours of shut-eye you got. 

When we mouth breathe during sleep, the body enters an unnecessarily stressed state to compensate. 

Mouth breathing activates our fight or flight response, leading to poor oxygenation and fragmented sleep. 

That’s not all, though. Open-mouth breathing leads to snoring. As we breathe in and out of the mouth, airway tissues fall backward and obstruct the airway. 

As these tissues vibrate together, the sound of snoring follows and disrupts both the snorer’s sleep and their sleeping partner’s. 

If you snore, overnight mouth breathing is likely wrecking your sleep quality. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, leads to enhanced oxygenation and activation of the “rest and digest” response. 

Nasal breathing produces nasal nitric oxide, a vasodilator that calms the nervous system

But how do you ensure you’re nasal breathing when you’re not awake? Mouth tape. 

Woman uses mouth tape for snoring prevention and improved sleep quality

While you may feel skeptical about the idea of mouth taping, it ensures that the lips remain sealed overnight, leaving nasal breathing as the only remaining breathing option. 

Reduced snoring and enhanced sleep quality follow. Before you grab the nearest roll of tape, pause!

Most tapes contain chemicals and irritants in their adhesives that aren’t skin safe. SomniFix, however, was designed specifically to tape the lips overnight. 

Our strips feature a dreamy gel-like adhesive that delivers a hypoallergenic, latex-free, and gluten-free lip seal. 

A patented central breathing vent within our strips provides a backup mouth breathing option that helps ease you into the sensation of overnight mouth taping. 

The best sleep schedule for night shift workers includes SomniFix for snoring prevention, night or day!

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