8 tips for managing shift work

8 Tips for Managing Shift Work

Enjoy the benefits and better manage the disadvantages of shift work.

Shift work has its advantages and its disadvantages. Easier commute during off-peak hours. Usually better pay. Time during the day for things you need to take care of. But if you work night shift, rotating shift or swing shift, you know all too well the negative effects it can have on your health and relationships.

Here are 8 Simple Tips on managing shift work.

  • Work less shifts in a row. If you’re working rotating shifts and tend to work over or cover co-workers’ shifts on your days off, the more sleep deprived you will be. Try to limit yourself to no more than 3-5 night shifts in a row without time off in between. After consecutive night shifts, it’s recommended you have at least 48 hours off before going back on shift so your body can recuperate.
  • Avoid excessive overtime. While it may be tempting to put in extra hours at work, you should avoid working too many hours in a row. The time away from home will adversely affect your relationships as well as limiting the amount of time for sleep.
  • Get enough rest. You may have a long honey-do list when you get home, but learn to prioritize and schedule. Not everything has to be done right away. If you’re not careful, you may lose track of time and cut into your necessary sleep time. Sleep deprivation will lead to fatigue, inattentiveness and accident proneness.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment. Use room-darkening shades or curtains in your bedroom. If necessary, try wearing a sleep mask and ear plugs or a white noise machine when everyone else is up and moving around in the other room. Avoid watching TV or playing on your phone while in bed. Doing so will actually condition your brain to remain active and interfere with going to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before you plan on sleeping. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and the effect can last 3 to 5 hours. And remember, caffeine is not just in coffee. It’s in your tea, soft drinks and chocolate. So time your caffeine intake accordingly. You may also want to nix the nightcap. Even a couple of drinks can interfere with your normal sleep process. Drinking right before bedtime may help you fall asleep quicker, but it may cause you to go directly into deep sleep. This will interfere with the restorative sleep cycles called REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement. The normal sleep pattern includes six to seven cycles of REM sleep. If you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one or two, leaving you feeling tired when you wake.
  • Develop a routine. Getting to bed and waking up at the same time depending on your shift will help promote good sleeping habits. Be as consistent as possible, even on your days off. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is important for your overall health.
  • Avoid reliance on sleep pills. Sleep medications (prescription or over-the-counter) tend to interfere with REM sleep and can lead to chronic fatigue in the long term.
  • Eat healthy. A varied diet consisting of mostly whole foods is conducive to overall well-being. Eating sufficient portions of fruits and vegetables along with quality proteins and complex carbohydrates will help you feel better and become more stress-resistant. Better fuel will keep your mind and body running better.

I hope these 8 simple tips help you better cope with shift work and enjoy your time off. Take care of yourself.

Question: What helps you cope with shift work? Please feel free to add to this list. Leave a comment below.

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