Around the world, sleep patterns for a 24/7 workday have become more prevalent with 27% of the U.S. population projected in varying work shifts.
The Sleep Health Institute defines two types of shift work schedules:
- Multiple shift patterns: Workers on multiple shift patterns do not work the same hours every day. They may work afternoons or evenings one day, then switch to overnight the next, sometimes even within the same week.
- Same shift pattern: Workers on the same shift pattern work fixed, predictable hours, but they are overnight or otherwise not in line with the typical Monday through Friday 9-5 schedule.
A fall 2023 study found that more than half of night shift workers have developed a sleep disorder. The survey listed six common sleep disorders: insomnia, hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness), parasomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders, sleep-related movement disorders, and circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders. From over 37,000 night shift workers, 51% chose at least one sleep disorder and 26% chose two or more disorders.
With over 50% claiming to receive only 6 hours of sleep or less, night shift workers are suffering due to their irregular schedules. Managing sleep for night shift workers can become a whole family affair to help everyone maintain sleep quality.
Tips and Tricks
The National Sleep Foundation states that rotating shifts are easier to adjust to than irregular schedules. Moving from a day shift to an evening shift is preferable as the schedule moves clockwise keeping a pattern. For new shift workers, it is recommended to delay bedtime and wake up an hour or two later slowly to adjust.
A lot of shifts adjust every few months. Try talking to your employer ahead of a shift change so you can be prepared. Reader’s Digest Best Health also has a helpful list of tips that include:
- Support from home. Make certain when shift work switches or schedules vary to have support from everyone in the house. If you need to sleep during odd hours, your spouse can take the kids to the park or library. Have a family sleep calendar so they understand the importance of sleep.
- Slowly adjust. Do not move straight into a new shift or even an existing shift. Take a few days to adjust by going to bed or waking up earlier depending on the shift.
- Maintenance. Some shift workers find it easier to keep the schedule everyday. For instance, if you work 4 days a week for 10 hours, keep the same sleep schedule on off days.
- Move. Get moving. Get outdoors for some fresh air. A life spent at work and sleeping will be a life slowly leading to obesity. On days off, take some walks with the family or go to the gym.
- Say no. Overtime can sometimes bring in a lot of extra pay but if it deters your sleeping habits, just say no. Money isn’t everything in life so keep balance with work and family by making sleep and time off a priority.
Already Working Long Shifts?
If you already are working a long shift and frequent shift changes, do not live far from work. The last thing you want to do is to drive sleepy or drowsy. Working close to your home keeps sleep a priority when you have time off.
You also want to avoid caffeine when shift working. Do not confuse your body by increasing your caffeine intake during shift schedules to prevent an energy crash.
Another helpful tip is staying alert in a bright space when you are working a shift. By staying exposed to light, your circadian clock can adjust to the environment even if it changes.
The Alaska Sleep Clinic specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide variety of sleep-related disorders. Our registered polysomnographic technologists (RPSGTs) work night schedules and realize the importance of successful sleep routines for job performance.
If you are experiencing shift work disorder or suspect an issue, call today for a free consultation.