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Surviving the night shift: top tips

Posted on 29 March 2017

Night shifts can be a difficult concept, not least because the thought of sleeping while the sun is shining goes against everything our body is programmed to expect. Sudden changes to your sleep patterns can be tough on your body and mind, and getting into a new routine may take time. Follow these simple steps to surviving the night shift and help ease yourself into the transition.

Staying awake and alert during your night shift

Do you find yourself losing focus midway through a shift, or counting down the hours until you can go home to bed? Then you might need to adjust your approach to the shift, or your daytime sleep routine.

1. Keep eating
Make sure to have a proper meal before starting your shift – this shouldn’t be too hard as it will usually coincide with your normal evening meal. During your night shift, especially if you are just making the transition from days to nights, rather than having one big meal, try eating regular small snacks to keep your energy levels high. A change in sleep patterns can make your digestive system more sensitive, and larger meals are harder to digest. Be prepared with your food before you go; although a packet of crisps and an energy drink from the vending machine may sound tempting at 3am, your body will thank you for healthy eating in the long run.

2. Keep moving
A night shift may come with periods of inactivity, so use this time wisely. Walk around, stretch, exercise. Keeping moving will keep your blood flowing and your mind awake.

3. Chat with your co-workers
Keeping your mind active will prevent you becoming too tired, any you may also be able to share tips with your co-workers about how they became accustomed to the night shift.

Getting enough sleep during the day

1. Routine is key
Your body likes routine, so developing a schedule and sticking to it will help you adjust quicker. Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day

2. Prepare your bedroom
Convincing your body to sleep during the day can be a challenge, especially if you are being surrounded by reminders that it’s not night time. You can try and trick your body into going to sleep by creating a comfortable sleep space, ensuring that it’s dark, quiet and cool. Invest in some black out blinds and earplugs to minimise disturbances.

3. Be careful with caffeine
Caffeine in the first half of your night shift may provide you with that much needed boost – but be wary of too much. Drinking caffeine past 3am could lead to not getting the best sleep possible during the day.

Working your first night shift requires a bit of an adjustment, but once you develop a routine that works for you, it can be a shift full of learning experience and opportunities.

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