Six Tips For Maintaining An Unusual Sleep Schedule

Shift work can be tough, especially for those who work nights and have difficulty sleeping during the day.

In a column in the WA Police Union magazine this month, UWA Professor of Emergency Medicine Daniel Fatovich likened the risk of working rotating shifts to that of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Here’s what he said night shift workers could do to sleep better:

  1. Unplug the phone and doorbell if possible. Friends and family must understand your need for uninterrupted daytime sleep.
  2. Wear dark glasses on the way home. “Bright light is a stimulus for wakefulness,” Prof Fatovich notes.
  3. Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark bedroom, using blockout curtains, a blindfold and ear plugs if necessary. Go to the bathroom before bed.
  4. Plan your days off. Don’t swing all the way back to sleeping through the night on your days off – aim for middle ground instead. Prof Fatovich recommends going to bed at 2.30am on days off if your usual bedtime is 8am. This lets you spend time with family and friends without disrupting your sleep patterns entirely.
  5. Meditate and exercise. Meditation said to improve sleep quality, while regular aerobic exercise immediately after awakening improves mood and alertness during your shift.
  6. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol and sleeping pills. Prof Fatovich says sleeping pills can be addictive and don’t necessarily help change sleeping patterns, although he notes that medications that use melatonin could be an exception. He warns against caffeine, which keeps you awake if taken too close to bedtime, and alcohol, which is linked to poor quality sleep.

There’s more in the WA Police Union magazine.

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