The traditional nine-to-five workday means that most people sleep at night and are awake during the daytime—which works well for our bodies’ natural sleep cycles. But for shift workers, that kind of sleep schedule just isn’t possible. People in fields like health care, law enforcement, hospitality, and manufacturing may work nights, early mornings, split shifts, or on-call hours. This makes it tougher to get consistent sleep, and that’s why shift workers have a higher risk of developing sleep disorders.1
If you’re a shift worker, you don’t have to settle for poor-quality sleep. Check out some tips to get the rest you need.
- Make sleep a priority. Organize your home and work life to support your sleep. This includes communicating with your family about your need for sleep.
- Set up your bedroom for sleep success.
Dark, quiet, and cool are ideal conditions for sleep. Learn how to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary.
- Create a wind-down routine. A warm bath, light stretching, reading, meditation, and turning off screens—are all good ways to ease your body toward sleep. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it.
- Brighten it up when you’re awake.
During your waking hours, seek out bright light—sunlight if possible. An artificial light, such as a specially made lightbox, can work too.
- Keep consistent during off days. It’s tempting to go back to a “normal” sleep schedule on your days off, but this can disrupt your sleep in the long run. Instead, try to find a compromise sleep schedule. For example, on nights when you work, sleep as soon as you get home and sleep as long as you can. On days off, try to stay up until 3 or 4 a.m. and sleep until noon or 1 p.m. This way, you can enjoy some time with family and friends while also keeping at least some of your sleep hours consistent each day.
- Nap strategically. Naps can be an efficient way to catch up on sleep, but it may take some experimenting to find the right approach for you. For some people, a 20-minute nap is enough time to provide helpful rest without feeling groggy. Others find it helpful to nap longer—splitting their sleep by napping after they get home from work and then once more in the hours before they leave again.2
- Move your body during the day.
Exercise and activity during your waking hours can make it easier to fall asleep at bedtime. Even short periods like a five-minute walk can help.
- Eat and drink for better sleep. Some foods—like bananas or yogurt—can help you sleep better. But eating too much or too soon before bed can result in restless sleep, and so can drinking alcohol in the evening. Also, avoid caffeine starting 4–6 hours before bed.
- Understand how your medications affect sleep.
Medications including prescriptions, over-the-counter options, and supplements can impact your sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or a MOBE Pharmacist to find out if medications could be part of the problem.
If you’d like to learn more ways to improve your sleep—and your overall well-being—a MOBE Guide can offer one-to-one support. Wondering how your medications might affect sleep? A licensed MOBE Pharmacist can help. Get started today.
1. Danielle Pacheco, “What Is Shift Work?” Sleep Foundation, April 14, 2022, accessed May 6, 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder/what-shift-work.
2. Danielle Pacheco, “Tips for Shift Workers,” Sleep Foundation, March 11, 2022, accessed May 6, 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder/tips.