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Managing Sleep When You Work Night Shifts


At Secure Healthcare Solutions, we are pleased to offer roles that allow our teams to work flexible hours which suit their needs, whether to fit in with family responsibilities, allow you top up your income, or to fit in with your social life. For many, that means working night shifts, be it as a nurse, a healthcare assistant or in another role.

However, when working non-traditional hours, a danger can be that your sleep can become disordered if you don’t put appropriate measures in place to ensure your health and wellbeing. So we have put together some tips to help you to get a better night’s (or day’s) sleep!

Healthy Eating

While it can seem strange to tuck into dinner at 8 am, eating a healthy meal before you go to bed will stop hunger of thirst waking you up, and therefore disturbing that much-needed sleep.

However, what you tuck into can be just as important; night shift workers are more likely to experience metabolic syndrome and have a 29% increased risk of becoming overweight due to poor diet and disruption of your body clock. While it may be tempting to grab a sugary easy snack when you come home, ideally you should stick to a similar eating pattern that you would during the day.

Before sleeping, opt for foods that are easy to digest to avoid being woken up. Upon waking, think about eating a balanced meal that includes slow release carbohydrates that will give you energy.

It’s also worth noting that, while alcohol may initially help you drop off to sleep, it diminishes the quality of sleep, leaving you feeling unrefreshed, and can disturb your sleep too.

Night Shifts and Light Exposure

One of the biggest factors that can disturb the sleep of those who need to sleep during the day (and even at night) is exposure to light. While it’s obvious that sunlight can interrupt your sleep, exposure to artificial light, such as light from your mobile, tablet, or TV, shortly before you attempt to sleep can also play havoc with your ability to drop off.

If it’s bright on your commute home, consider wearing sunglasses on your journey to ‘trick your brain’ into getting ready for sleep. Consider using blackout blinds or curtains in your bedroom to block out the daylight, or if this isn’t possible, use a sleep mask.

Avoid screentime before going to bed – including mobiles, tablets and TV, and don’t leave your phone on your bedside table – the constant light from notifications is bound to wake you up!

Be Careful of Caffeine

We all love a good cuppa! Whether your choice is to grab a latte, brew yourself a tea when getting home, or top up on instant throughout you shift. Caffeine is a stimulant, and while lots of us take a lovely dose of caffeine at the start of our workday to kick start our shift, drinking too much coffee, tea, or cola can lead to sleep problems.

Avoid drinking any caffeine product at least six hours before bedtime to make sure that it won’t affect your sleep.

Managing your sleep as a shift worker needn’t be difficult, with a little planning, and understanding what works for you will enable you to enjoy all the benefits of night shifts, without the downsides.


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