I just started working the night shift, and I'm having trouble sleeping during the day. Do you have any sleep tips for shift workers?
Answers from Eric J. Olson, M.D.
Humans are naturally wired to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. Good daytime sleep is possible, though, if shift work is a necessary part of your work life.
To promote better sleep during the day:
- Avoid stimulants before bedtime. If you're working nights and need to sleep from morning until afternoon, try to avoid caffeine after the first part of your shift.
- Avoid light. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Wear sunglasses on your way home from your shift. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens before bedtime. Reduce ambient light by hanging room-darkening shades on the windows or wearing an eye mask.
- Create a quiet environment. Remove sound distractions by turning off electronics or wearing ear plugs. Ask others in your home to be as quiet as possible while you try to sleep.
- Take naps. Napping late in the day before work might help you make up your sleep debt.
- Aim to limit shift changes. Frequently changing shifts will prevent your body from adjusting.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Plan to work out after you wake up rather than before you go to sleep. Don't use nicotine or alcohol near bedtime.
If these tips don't help, consult your doctor or a sleep specialist.
April 29, 2017
- Sleep deprivation and deficiency. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd. Accessed April 7, 2017.
- Bonnet MH, et al. Treatment of insomnia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 7, 2017.
- Jackson EJ, et al. Safety during night shifts: A cross-sectional survey of junior doctors' preparation and practice. BMJ Open. 2013;3:1.