6 Tips for Better-Quality Sleep Before Your Next Night Shift
After a long graveyard shift, you’re exhausted — and your first thought as you pull into your driveway is burying yourself in the sheets.
However, if you’re like most night shift workers, you probably spend more of your ‘sheet time’ time tossing and turning than snoozing peacefully. And by the time your alarm rings, you’re fantasizing about calling in sick or quitting altogether.
Fortunately, you can turn the tides — without quitting your job.
What you need is good quality sleep, which is what you’ll get when you implement the six highly-effective tips below.
But first, let’s explore the concept of ‘good quality sleep’ to help you understand why you need it — and why you’re probably not getting it right now.
What’s Good Quality Sleep?
You may be getting the bare minimum of six hours, but duration doesn’t define quality.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality sleep is determined by factors including (1):
Falling asleep in no more than 30 minutes
Being asleep 85% of the time
Waking up no more than once
Staying awake for no more than 20 minutes if you wake up in between
If you work the night shift, it’s very likely that most of the points above don’t apply to your average sleep session. After all, the sun, your neighbors, your phone and even your own body are all conspiring to prevent you from getting good-quality sleep.
Left unaddressed, poor-quality sleep may mean you’re more likely to develop bad habits like smoking or serious health conditions like heart disease.
Thankfully, you can improve your sleep.
How to Get Better Sleep After the Night Shift
If you’re ready to get a good ‘night’s’ sleep, the following tips will help you sleep better and boost your performance at your next shift.
Tip #1: Establish a Sleep Schedule and Stick to It
While establishing a sleep routine may be difficult, it’s not impossible. When you do it, it’s rewarding since it allows you to get good-quality sleep and feel great when you wake up.
So, pick the best time to sleep, and sleep as long as you can. Just make sure you stick to your schedule — even on weekends.
While it may be tempting to be out during the day and asleep at night when Saturday rolls around, it can interfere with your routine. Come Monday, you’ll feel tired and lack focus at work.
Tip #2: Schedule Decompression Time After Work
Instead of going straight to bed, take the time to relax and unwind after work. This is especially important if you have had a stressful night.
So, spend 90 minutes to two hours on decompression activities, such as indulging in your favorite show or chatting with friends or family.
Tip #3: Limit Your Exposure to Light
Here’s a sleep secret you might not know: your eyes play a huge role in your ability to sleep. When exposed to sunlight, they tell your body it’s daytime and prevent you from feeling tired.
That’s why you need to wear sunglasses while heading home from work — the darker they are, the better. Don’t forget to complement these with thick, dark bedroom curtains that effectively block sunlight.
When you block out the sun, your body won’t as easily pick up on the fact that it’s daytime — and you’ll have an easier time getting to sleep.
Tip #4: Limit Your Exposure to Noise
Daytime is noisy. You’re bound to hear children playing, phones ringing, traffic, etc. If you’re not able to block out all this noise, you won’t be able to get good quality sleep.
The most obvious solution is earplugs — but if you’re not comfortable using earplugs, you can block the noise through a white noise machine or app. You can also adjust the sound of your doorbell and ringtone to prevent others from waking you up.
In addition to the tips above, it’s a smart move to request that others (especially housemates, but maybe neighbors too) be quiet while you sleep.
Tip #5: Know What to Eat — and What Not to
The food and drinks you consume can affect your sleep, for better or for worse.
For instance, indulging in caffeinated drinks three hours before your bedtime will mess up your sleep. Similarly, eating too much or too little before you hit the hay can reduce the quality of your sleep.
To make sure you sleep as well as possible, regulate the amount of food you eat (and the amount of caffeine you drink) before you sleep — and stay away from sugary treats right before bedtime. (They’ll give you an unnecessary energy boost, and prevent you from falling asleep quickly.)
Tip #6: Communicate Your Schedule and Sign off Before Sleeping
One of the biggest issues you may face is sleeping while everyone else you know is awake.
Because you’re the only one trying to sleep, you’re quite likely to receive calls or messages from your friends and family while you’re trying to drift off — and each one has the potential to keep you up and/or compromise the quality of your sleep.
So, be upfront and tell others when you’re planning to sleep. Set clear boundaries to prevent people from waking you up.
Similarly, avoid the temptation of checking emails and social media if you wake up briefly. It’s a smart idea to switch off your wi-fi and turn off notifications while you’re sleeping, so you can block out the active online world.
Ready for Better Sleep?
Only you have the power to improve the quality of your sleep.
So, take the lead and establish a routine for yourself, block out distractions and make sure your food (and drink) choices support your sleep.
And don’t forget to set boundaries for others. This will help you to set realistic expectations and prevent friction in your relationships as you work to improve your sleep quality.
What’s your fave night shift sleep tip? Let us know in the comments.
(1) “Top Factors That Determine Sleep Quality." National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/top-factors-determine-sleep-quality. Accessed 30 Aug. 2019.
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