Those who know me know what I mean when I say good-night. I say good-night after working a long 12 hour night as I am heading out the door, down the stairwell on my way home. I wear sunglasses for the drive home. I say good-night as I go. It's daytime and most people are buzzing around well into or just starting their daily routine. I am finishing mine! It is my night. And hopefully it will be a good uninterrupted day of sleep for me.
Working shift work is a different lifestyle. Consider getting a phone call at 2:30 in the morning. Not an issue if you are awake at that time. However, if you are normal and are sleeping at that time it would probably irritate the heck out of you, especially if the call were one of those "can I speak to the lady of the house" phone calls. No one really thinks twice about calling at 11:30 in the morning unless you are a night shift person trying to get a good night's, I mean day's sleep! So I have learned to turn the phone off and let the answering machine pick up.
Is there a possibility that employers will host mandatory meetings at a more convenient time for night shift workers? Probably not in the near future. Instead we are expected to come in bright eyed and happy to be here in the middle of OUR night time for a meeting. And then expected to stay awake and learn something. Even meetings at the end of a shift can be a difficult task when you have slowed down and are ready for the soft pillow sensation. Yawn. I have just accepted that I can't learn new tricks at that time of day and have accepted that those people who work days can just think I am stupid and moody and can hate me because I am beautiful if they want to. Seriously, I wonder how bright eyed they'd be at a 0136am meeting.
Working nights goes against the body's design. We were designed to be awake in the day and sleep at night. It all relates to the circadian rhythm thing. Sunlight or lack thereof causes factors in our bodies to either be awake or go to sleep. Studies show that those individuals working nights are more at risk for heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, mood disorders, and neurological disorders. Since staying awake all night and sleeping in the daytime goes against the body's natural design getting adequate rest can be a problem for shift workers. Some people adjust quite well to working night shift and others are constantly plagued with sleep problems.
Here are some tips to help night shift workers sleep better.
1. Try to fool your body into thinking it is really night. You can do this by: Darkening your sleeping area. I wear a sleeping mask which works well for me; plus my room is away from the morning and midday sun, so it stays darker till late afternoon. Minimize outside noises. The daytime hours are a lot noisier than nighttime hours. Neighbors will mow their grass in the day time if you can believe that. I wear ear plugs to block out the noises. You can buy earplugs at Wal-Mart in the sporting goods section.
2. More on Minimizing Noises and children. I already mentioned earplugs, but consider ropes and gags for children that are out of school for summer vacation. Just kidding. Really, do not gag and do not hog tie your children. My children are teenagers now and do have an understanding of my need for daytime sleep. I have worked nights for years and they have pretty much grown up with this lifestyle. Another hint, and a no brainer probably, Turn the ringer off on your phones and let the answering machine take your calls. If you have children, have a cell phone or pager to keep by your bed. Of course don't give this number out to your employers as they will call you on it just as you are slipping into the very best dream you ever had to ask you some life or death question like "did you really give that 5:00 am enema, I know you said you did, but you did not sign for it." So, with that in mind, make sure the children or the schools know to call this cell phone or pager number if you have to be reached.
3. Inform others that you work nights and sleep during the day. Tell you family, your friends what are good times to reach you. Let them know your routine. Tell your children's friends yourself that you are very mean and ugly and always so NO when awakened during the day. Put a do not disturb or no solicitation sign on the door for others that might be door to door sales folks. If your neighbors know your routine they are less likely to come over at noon to borrow a cup of sugar. However, they will still mow their grass in the daytime.
4. Avoid things that affect sleep. Caffeine should be avoided for at least 3 to 5 hours before you try to go to sleep. Alcohol, though it is a CNS depressant will not help you to sleep any better; it actually causes you to sleep lighter than you normally would. No smoking in bed or before bedtime. Nicotine is a stimulant! And your body craves it even when you are asleep, so guess what; you wake up more frequently. Pain and anxiety should be avoided if at all possible. It is extremely difficult to get to sleep when you are worrying. Take analgesics for pain and if needed seek medical care for chronic pain and anxiety problems.
5. Sleep Aids. Luckily I don't need to take anything to help me sleep for the most part. But what does come to mind is melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. It is released rhythmically (there's that circadian thing again) and is influenced by darkness. Growing darkness stimulates our body to secrete melatonin and conversely light signals its cessation. There is controversy about taking oral forms of melatonin in an effort to reset the body's natural rhythms. I am not encouraging the use of melatonin, nor discouraging its use as I do not know the whole issues. It is an individual decision and each person should make an informed decision before using any sleep aid. FYI: In nocturnal animals melatonin is secreted with the setting of the sun as it is in the human body, however, in the nocturnal animal it signals a wake up call. Check back for links as I will provide links to informational sites in regards to melatonin as I find them.
I will be updating this page from time to time with more ideas and hints for better sleep so check back periodically.