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Are You a Shift Worker?
12 December 2014 No comments
How to Get Some Quality Sleep
Hey! Wake up! Take a look at the list below. Do you work in any of these major industries?
- Call centre agents
- Service industries which include cleaning and security
- Tourism industry – those who work in airports (and airplanes), hotels, resorts
- Health industry – medical centres, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies
- Transportation – trains, buses, ships
- Media – TV, broadcasting, newspaper
- Hospitality – casinos, restaurants, clubs
- A bloke who surfs the net until the wee hours of the morning and sleeps till noon.
Just kidding around with the last one. On the more serious side, a shift worker is a person who works beyond or outside the regular 9 to 5 job. So, if your work description includes that, then you’re a shift worker. Being a shift worker shouldn’t ruin your hopes of drifting off to dreamland. Here are some practical tips for how you can get some quality sleep:
Talk to your body. Not literally out loud though. This is what you’ll do. Tell your body and your mind that you’re going to sleep at this time and then try your best to do so. You are in control of your mind and your mind is in control of your body.
Invest in toys. Don’t get any funny ideas there. Toys include the following: eye mask, ear plugs, a comfortable pillow and bed, as well as blackout curtains. Make sure you try out the eye mask first to ensure it’s a snug fit. A good fit would mean that no marks are left on your face after you’ve tried it on for a few seconds and adjusted it. In addition, it should keep out all the light. No peeking. Ear plugs block out noises especially if you have a special someone who watches TV while you sleep. Darkness signals your body to rest. That’s natural and in line with your body’s internal clock. If you want your body to take you seriously, send the message with darkness using blackout curtains. Comfortable pillows and bed will rest your entire body and not just your mind. You’ll wake up feeling more refreshed.
Food and supplements. Try some warm milk to help you sleep. This is like your Mum used to give you when you had trouble sleeping as a child. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in milk and a precursor of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which helps you stabilise your mood and aid in your sleep by its conversion to melatonin.
When it comes to supplements, try taking magnesium. It’s vital for optimal functioning of your GABA receptors located in your entire nervous system especially your brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that enables you to switch off your brain (put in on sleep mode like a computer). If you're GABA receptors (proteins which receive the signal from this chemical) are non-functional, your muscles remain tense, and you tend to count all the animals in the animal kingdom (not just sheep) jumping over the fence. Quit staring at the ceiling and take your magnesium supplement.
Save the caffeine for when you wake up. Avoid sipping (or gulping) down caffeinated drinks for at least four hours before going to bed. Caffeinated beverages stimulate your central nervous system and keep you up and alert.
Take a warm shower 90 minutes before going to bed. A warm shower can raise your levels of melatonin, a hormone which helps you maintain a normal circadian rhythm and makes you sleep.
Don’t exercise before going to bed. Exercising releases glucagon and epinephrine in your body. Both hormones stimulate your central nervous system which may make you feel alert and awake when you want to sleep.
Leave the TV outside your bedroom. The TV, which gives you visual and auditory stimuli, will certainly wake up your brain especially if you already have a hard time sleeping. It gives your brain the wrong message particularly if you’re watching something that requires a lot of brainpower.
Avoid shifting schedules too often. This can wreak havoc on your normal sleep-wake cycle. Getting too little sleep will depress your bone marrow and keep it from producing immune cells. As a consequence your immunity is lowered and rendering you susceptible to a host of diseases.
Silence! Put your cell phone in silent mode and turn off vibrate. Your phone vibrating on a wooden bedside table may ‘rattle’ your brain through your ears making you snap out of your sleep.
Eat regularly. This may come as to no surprise to you. Going to sleep hungry will rob your body of nutrients. It’s during your sleep that your body is able to heal and repair itself. Eating regularly is also important to keep your blood sugar stable. If your blood glucose levels drop too much during the night your body releases cortisol and adrenaline which will wake you up by suppressing your sleep hormone melatonin. Have protein and good fats with each meal and snack to maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
Follow these practical tips to ensure you have a good night’s sleep. Just because you’re a shift worker is doesn’t mean that you have to forego quality rest and recovery. You can have both quality sleep and productive shift work.
- Stevenson, S. (©2014). Sleep smarter: 21 proven tips to sleep your way to a better body, better health and bigger success. United States: Model House Publishing.
- (2011). Principles and practice of sleep medicine (5th Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier
Posted in: Stress, Mood & Sleep