Posted on by Amber Merton

woman sleeping peacefully

Most individuals traditionally work in the daytime, and sleep at night. But, many people work all night long, or third-shift. They're forced to sleep during the day when the sun is shining — and this proves difficult for many, since it's unnatural for the body.

Certain professionals call for third-shift work, such as:

  • Firefighters
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Police officers
  • Factory workers
  • Paramedics
  • Office cleaning staff
  • Hotels
  • Staff at 24-hour pharmacy and grocery stores

When you're working in a profession that calls for third-shift hours, it could put you at risk for shift work sleep disorder. Having to work irregular or night shifts can keep you from obtaining the regular sleep time most individuals who work during the day take for granted.

It's more common to work non-traditional hours than you may think. In fact, according to a New England Journal of Medicine published editorial, up to 20% of workers in industrialized nations work either rotating shifts or night shifts.

While not all people who work irregular hours have shift work sleep disorder, many can be at risk. Individuals who have this disorder also have greater rates of accidents and absenteeism related to sleepiness than those working nights who don't have the disorder. Either way, it's essential you learn ways of sleeping better when you work night shifts.

Here are some tips to help you sleep better when you work the third shift.

  1. Practice Good Sleep Habits

Practicing good sleep hygiene is important, especially if you received a diagnosis for shift work sleep disorder. You want to ensure you're obtaining sufficient sleep, and maintaining good sleep habits like:

  • Establishing and maintaining a regular bedtime routine.
  • Ensuring your environment is conducive for sleeping (i.e. it's quiet and cool, you have a comfortable mattress).
  • Refraining from using electronics before bed.
  1. Keep Your Bedroom Dark

Invest in heavy curtains or room darkening curtains for keeping as much sunlight from streaming into your bedroom as possible. This helps your body's internal clock feel like it's nighttime. If you have sunlight lighting up your bedroom when you’re trying to sleep during the day, your brain will still “feel” the sun, and will attempt to wake you up throughout the day, even if you're tired and can't sleep.

  1. Cut Back On or Avoid Caffeine

Another way you can help yourself obtain a better "night's" sleep during the day is by reducing how much caffeine you're consuming during your work shift. If you're drinking coffee, tea, or another caffeine source throughout your shift to help you stay awake, you'll want to stop drinking it a few hours before your shift comes to an end, to allow your body time for metabolizing it.

  1. Maintain a Routine

Once you've established the routine of staying awake during the night to work and sleeping during the day, you need to stick with this routine. Even if you have a day off, you should still try and stick with this routine, even on weekends. This will help keep your routine in check, and not mess it up.

You'll also want to stick to the same shift, if possible. Many individuals work swing shifts, and this can be difficult on an individual. Your body won't know when it should be awake, and when it should be sleeping; therefore, you might struggle with obtaining enough sleep each day.

Stick with the same routine when preparing for night shifts or bed during the day. This encourages pattern recognition, and gets your body ready for sleep. Some things you can do to create a "wind down" routine to train your body for sleep are:

  • Listening to soothing music
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Meditating
  • Performing relaxation exercises
  • Eating a snack
  • Brushing your teeth
  1. Stay Alert at Work

Before and during your early part of your night shift, seek out bright light as much as possible. Even if you work in certain areas that require the lighting to be dim, when you're on break, ensure the break area is well lit up.

  1. Ensure Your Family Understands and Respects your Sleep Time

Talk with your family about how important it is that you get sufficient sleep. Just like you wouldn't bother them during the night when they're sleeping, ask them to respect your sleep time during the day. You need your privacy during the day to obtain sufficient sleep.

Perhaps your spouse can take the children outdoors during the day to play while you sleep, so you won't hear them. Noisy housework like vacuuming can be put off until later on after you've slept. Having company over can wait until later on as well until you've slept. Basically, anything that can be noisy should be put off until you've had your adequate amount of sleep.

  1. Block Other Noises Out

Even if your kids are outdoors playing, your room is dark, and house chores are being put off until later on, the daytime can still produce noise like cars passing by, neighbors mowing their lawn, and so forth. You can try and block these noises out by wearing earplugs.

However, if you struggle sleeping with earplugs like many people do, you can instead try listening to white noise such as:

  • Listening to the television or radio on low
  • Having a fan running
  • Listening to white noise from an audio device
  1. Avoid Drinking Alcohol Before Going to Bed

You might think alcohol will help you fall asleep faster and keep you asleep, but it actually reduces your quality of sleep, and disrupts your deep sleep stages. This can leave you feeling tired and not refreshed the following day.

  1. Find Time to Exercise

By staying physically fit, you're helping your body better cope with body clock changes, and this will help keep you feeling less fatigued and tired overall.

  1. Keep Your Phone Silenced

When you're sleeping, make sure your phone is on silent, since phone calls and text messages can disrupt your sleep. You may even want to keep your phone in a different room when you're sleeping. Your family members may even want to silence their phones during this time, so their phone calls and text messages during the day aren't disrupting your sleep.

The Takeaway

Your body will become accustomed to working and sleeping during these irregular hours over time. Each individual is different, so it may take time for you to find the ideal combination of techniques that will suit you best. Start off by applying some of these techniques above to help push your body into coping better, and therefore being able to establish a good sleeping routine.

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