Human beings have an internal clock, known as a circadian rhythm, that controls when we fall asleep and wake up. Biological processes, including secretion of melatonin and body temperature factors, control our levels of fatigue or alertness. Most people are programmed to sleep at night. Night-shift working upsets this pattern. As a result, many night-shift workers struggle to sleep properly during the day.
Adapt Your Circadian Rhythm
If you work a permanent night-shift pattern, you can adjust your circadian rhythm, according to a study reported by the American Psychological Association. On your days off, go to bed as late as possible, perhaps around 3 a.m. During your night shifts, if possible surround yourself with bright lights while working, and wear sunglasses when you come off shift. Go to bed as early as possible after completing a night shift. This minimizes the difference between your working and non-working sleep patterns and will help you achieve a peaceful sleep.
You may be tempted to use stimulants, such as caffeine, to help you remain alert while working night shifts. However, high levels of caffeine can cause insomnia, restlessness, irritability and a racing heartbeat, according to the Mayo Clinic. To get adequate sleep during the day, it is best to avoid stimulants during the night. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, many soft drinks, some pain relievers and dietary supplements. Sensitivity to caffeine varies. The average person can tolerate about 300 milligrams of caffeine daily without side-effects. This generally amounts to two to four cups of brewed coffee.
Create A Sleep-Friendly Environment
Before settling down to sleep, ensure that your environment is suitable. Your bedroom should be as dark as possible. It is worth investing in blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block out the sun. Ask your family to respect your need for a good sleep and avoid making too much noise around the house. Consider wearing earplugs when you sleep to block out unavoidable day-to-day noises. Keep televisions and computers out of the bedroom to ensure that you are not tempted to fritter away vital sleeping time.
You may be tempted to use sleep aids during the day, such as sleeping pills or melatonin supplements. However, long-term use of sleep aids can cause unwanted side-effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness and headaches. If taken for too long, sleeping pills can cause dependency issues. Sleeping pills or supplements should not be combined with alcohol because they can intensify the sedative effect of any medication. You should seek a medical opinion before using sleep aids to assist with daytime sleeping.
Lynne MacDonald has experience in the fields of human resource management, training, organizational development and law. MacDonald received a law degree from the University of Dundee in 1990 and holds diplomas in personnel management and legal practice. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.