Sleep. The hardest part of night shifts–or the lack there of rather. How do you take a body that is genetically programmed to get tired and sleep during the night hours and train it to sleep during the day hours? Well, if you’re anything like me, you can’t. I’m sure there are some night owls out there with no problem with the night shift and getting enough sleep, but for those of us not so fortunate, these are my tips to help trick your body into sleeping during the day.
If you are a Shift worker and you have advice to add, please write it in the comments!!
- Darkness. lots of darkness. i’ve once slept in our closet before we had our curtains up in our new house. I not only recommend black-out curtains, but also I recommend cutting a cardboard box to the shape of your window and placing it in your window the days you need to sleep. This advice was passed down by a fellow night shift nurse months ago and I have loved it ever since! When I’m off shift it just slides out so I can see the sun again on my days off.
- I even have a dark valence in my master bathroom so the sunlight is dulled for my bathroom breaks.
- Cold. Face the electrical bill and turn your A/C on. You may even want to make it slightly cooler than you do at night if your bedroom windows face the cruel summer sun.
- Melatonin— a hormone in your body that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels rise in the evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. So, we are naturally screwed. But, lucky for us this supplement can be found in supplement section of grocery stores or pharmacys. Melatonin will not keep you to sleep, it just helps put you to sleep. Normally, I have no issues falling asleep initially–I usually wake up around noon and have trouble falling back asleep–this is when I take melatonin.
- I have tried other sleep aids such as “Zzz Quil”, it worked at first, but then it seemed like my body became tolerant to it, so I have since stopped using it. It didn’t keep me to sleep any longer than melatonin did.
- Keep the electronics out. No TV, no iPads, no PHONES–I repeat– no cell phone.. charge that puppy out in the kitchen because it is nothing but a distraction. Yes, many use their cell phones as alarm clocks– go buy an alarm clock for $9.95 at your nearest walmart and learn to use it.
- I was stubborn and kept my phone by my bedside, and without fail, if I woke up, I would check my phone. Checking your phone leads to nothing but staying awake! Once you stimulate your mind it’s hard to get it to stop. You see someones facebook post about vacuuming and next thing you know your mind is going a mile a minute thinking about how badly your house needs vacuumed–which leads to how badly your kitchen needs cleaned–which leads to how badly you need to have a garage sale to get rid of all your extra dishes–which leads to…GET IT?
5. If you had a very stressful day and you need to unwind before sleep, practice deep breathing while laying in bed. Listen to yourself inhale, filling your lungs enough you see your belly rise, exhale and count to 5, repeat this ten times.
6. Work your shifts in a row. As a nurse I am full time with 3 12-hour shifts, so I work all three of these shifts in a row (for the most part-depending on staffing needs) That way i am at least on a consistent schedule, then the remaining four days I can go back to sleeping at night and living like a human being again. I used to try just two in a row tops because I am always so tired by the third night, but since the first night on shift I normally don’t sleep at all (since I slept normal the night prior), I was having 2 days a week with little to No sleep. It is just not healthy.
Sometimes sleep just doesn’t work.. My general rule is if you have been laying in bed for over two hours, just get up and go accomplish something. If there is still a chance for sleep later, put sunglasses on (yes inside) to at least continue to trick your mind into raising your melatonin levels.