Sleep and shift work
During the COVID crisis, many of our key workers have carried on dealing with the pandemic whilst working shifts. Read on for our top tips on sleeping better when working shifts.
The coronavirus pandemic is definitely taking it’s toll on our wellbeing. Being stressed and worried pretty constantly is tiring and having a negative effect on our sleep especially - something that we would consider the foundation of a lot of our wellness, mentally and physically. A few questions we’ve been getting is around the amazing key workers and their sleep when they’re having to do different shift patterns. Read on to find out our advice.
It’s worth remembering that we, as humans, are not designed to do shift work. It can be really difficult to fall asleep during shift work, but there are a few things that we can do to ensure we are getting better sleep if we are having to work unusual shift patterns.
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of people make is finishing a shift, coming straight home, and going straight to bed.
Why on Earth would that be a mistake? You might wonder…
We get it. They're sleep deprived, it’s tiring, they’ve just been at work for eight hours!
These workers will be shattered and ready to sleep. But at this time, maybe they get 3-4 hours of sleep, and then they wake up and feel wide awake. This happens because everything around them is telling them it’s daytime! It’s light outside, it’s warm, there might be a lot of noise, and that makes it hard to get good quality sleep.
Our advice would be to not rush straight to bed once you finish your shift. Go home and spend an hour winding down like you would do before bed in the evening. Try taking a lukewarm bath or shower when you get home before sleeping, to raise your core temperature ready to drop again, preparing the body for sleep. Think about whether the things you’re doing at this time are going to help your heart rate, too. So now is probably not the time to catch up on that anxiety-inducing thriller documentary you’ve been watching…
Pick something funny, repetitive or a bit trashy to watch instead (our current favourite is Tiger King).
Another mistake many might make is to go home and have a heavy breakfast after their shift. This can cause us to struggle to sleep as it raises our core temperature, just like with exercise. So try instead to wait a few hours before trying to sleep if you do these things.
It can be harder to get the 8-9 hours we might be used to during the day, so this is one of the (only!) times that naps can be good. So, if you’re feeling a bit lethargic after that sleep, a 30-minute nap in a dark room with something relaxing to listen to can help top up the sleep you’ve already had.
Reality check: Working irregular hours is hard enough at the best of times, but the pandemic has presented a whole new challenge for those of us who do shifts. Creating a consistent wind-down routine, whatever time we finish work, strategically using naps and not stressing too much can all help us sleep better.