Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Night Shifts Negatively Impact Your Sleep

Posted by Lewis Robinson on May 31, 2022 1:16:37 PM

Closeup portrait of an overwhelmed with busy schedule, unhappy male health care professional doctor or nurse holding big clock running out of time isolated on white background

There are many industries around the world that require around-the-clock staffing. However, if you are on the night shift of one of these jobs, it can take a severe toll on your well-being. From insomnia to heart disease, disturbing your rhythms can cause long-term issues for you. Here are a few ways that it can impact your health. 


Disrupts Your Patterns

The way that your body operates is dictated by the biological patterns programmed into it. This includes being awake when it is light out and asleep while it is dark. When these are reversed during your night shift. It can throw your biological symptoms off. Whether you work in a manufacturing plant or wear scrub tops, you rely on your circadian rhythm to keep yourself regulated and rested. This process coordinates all the sections of your physical being so they operate together to keep you alive and healthy. It relies on sunshine during the day and lacks of it in the evening. It prevents melatonin from being released into yourself naturally, which helps you slumber with little issue. Along with the sun, this problem can also cause insomnia in you. However, if you are unable to get day hours, stay where you are. It is even harder for you two to switch back and forth between duties than it is to remain a night laborer. 


Causes Illnesses

Reversing your sleep schedule can also cause you to feel less than your best. It can affect the way that your heart works, causing high blood pressure and other cardiac issues. It has been proven that it can bring on dementia and other mental disorders. Your melatonin output is severely altered when you work nights instead of days, which brings on severe insomnia when you do get to bed. This slumber pattern can also raise your blood sugar level, which will eventually cause diabetes. The longer you continue this program in your life, the more likely it is that you will develop one or more of these. 


Difficulty Dozing At All

A major issue with sleeping during the day is insomnia that it brings on. Your body is conditioned to be awake when it is light out and resting when it is dark. While it may seem simple to reverse the process, it is a challenge for your system to actually accomplish that. You will find that you are unable to get a good slumber during the afternoon since your melatonin production at that moment is low. Even more concerning is that you will feel groggy when you are up and moving past midnight, especially if you work in an industry with large, dangerous machinery or have a job that requires your focus, such as patient care. It takes extra concentration to protect yourself and others when you are in this state. 


Creating the Best Atmosphere To Sleep In

As a third shift employee, there is little that you can do to change the hours that you work to benefit your sleep schedule. However, there are modifications that you can do to your home that will make the process easier for you. Purchase curtains or window coverings that block the light from outside from getting into your bedroom. Keep these drawn or down as much as possible to stay consistent with their surroundings. Adjust the temperature exactly where it is comfortable for you. If you like to be cold as you sleep, turn down the thermostat to those degrees or get a fan that can blow on you. Take account of the way that you slumber and make corrections if you are lying in a manner that can harm your physique. There are tools, such as body pillows, that can assist you with this. In addition, while you are at work, expose yourself to as much light as you can. This tricks you into accepting it as day.


Protect Your Sleep From Outside Intrusion

You may have simulated night in your bedroom, yet you will still suffer sleep loss if those outside your home are loud enough to be heard inside. Choose an alternative space to relax in if this is an issue for you. Turn off your cell phone or mute the ringer before you doze. Purchase a white noise machine or play soft music to help drown out any extra sound away from you. Hang a sign on your door asking for visitors to avoid ringing the doorbell or knocking during certain hours. You can relay this message to friends and family ahead of time to curb their ideas of coming over. When you order items to be delivered, note that you want to pick them up or to just leave the package at the door. If you have pets that might become noisy at an intruder, consider sending them to daycare for the day while you slumber. 


Take Care Of Your Body

You can counter the effects that your altered sleep schedule has on your body by taking better care of yourself. Scheduling time to exercise as much as possible can fatigue you and help you relax. It will strengthen your heart and regulate your systems better. Attempt to get up an hour or two before you normally do to get a workout or two in before you leave for your job. This will also increase your focus when you are concentrating on your task. Changing your diet so that you are eating better will greatly benefit you as well. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and proteins, and cut out the junk food where you can. Take bottles of water to drink instead of sugary beverages. Reduce your caffeine intake as much as you can. This substance may keep you awake while you are laboring, but it will also make it a challenge to slumber when you want to also.


See Your Doctor

Another option to help you stay healthy or to better adjust to your new schedule is to make an appointment with your doctor. They can do a thorough evaluation of you and then determine what could be concerning to them. They can suggest alternative methods to help you sleep, such as supplements. They can also assist you in plotting out a diet that will work with your position and an exercise regimen to keep you active. They are able to monitor your progress so they can prevent something from happening to you. Working the night shift can take a toll on your sleep as well as your body. It can be a difficult adjustment for you to make. However, rearranging your bedroom so that it simulates the dark, eating better, and exercising more may help you to find rest when you go to bed. 

Treatments for Shift-Work Sleep Disorder

  • exercise and diet for sleepRegular exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way toward combatting many of the negative symptoms of SWSD. Make time for regular workouts and pack your own meals for work rather than rely on food from vending machines or fast-food restaurants.

  • Make sure to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has a lot of health risks, and shift workers tend to get less sleep than regular daytime workers. A large part of it has to do with getting off in the early morning when there is ample daylight. The light from the sun tricks the body into thinking it needs to stay awake longer. Here are some tips on how to practice good sleep hygiene:

  • Talk to your doctor about taking melatonin supplements that can help aid your body in resetting your circadian rhythm. You can also talk to your doctor about medications that promote alertness or those that promote daytime sleep.

    • Keep your bedroom dark. Use black-out drapes and/or use a sleep mask.

    • Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 3 hours before bedtime.

    • Ask family members not to disturb you while you sleep unless it's an emergency.

    • Ditch your digital devices. The light from your phone, tablet, computer, etc., tricks your brain into thinking it's daylight, keeping you awake longer.

    • If you drive home from work in the morning light, wear dark sunglasses.

    • Use a "white noise" machine to block out distracting sounds if you have family members awake in the house during your sleep hours.

    • If possible, take brief naps during work breaks, but limit them to 10-30 minutes.

    • If working a rotating shift schedule, talk to your employer about moving your next shift "forward" as it's easier on the circadian rhythm to sleep in a little more rather than less.

If none of the above treatment options seem to help you adjust to your irregular work schedules, you might want to consider contacting a sleep clinic as there could be other factors affecting your sleep. At The Alaska Sleep Clinic, we specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide variety of sleep-related disorders, and treatment for a shift-work sleep disorder is one that is very important to us. As a clinic that monitors patients while they are sleeping, our very own registered polysomnographic technologists (RPSGT's) work night schedules, and their sleep routines are critical to successful job performance while administering sleep studies. And we want to make sure that you, as well as our own employees, are getting the right amount of daily sleep to keep you stay happy and healthy while you work.

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Topics: alaska sleep clinic, insomnia, losing sleep, cognitive sleep issues, shift work, alaska sleep

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