To maintain and improve your mental clarity, mood and health, consistent high-quality sleep is essential. Getting a full night’s rest can boost your immune system helping you to fight off infections, improve your memory, increase your productivity and lower your risk of developing illnesses such as diabetes.
However, if you work night shifts, getting to sleep and ensuring sleep quality can be a difficult task as you’re working against your body clock. Whether you regularly work nights or just on occasion, here are 8 tips that can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality rest.
Limit caffeine & nicotine
It is completely normal to want to pump yourself full of caffeine to get through a night shift. Whether that’s coffee, tea, chocolate or energy drinks. Whereas caffeine may help you stay more alert for the shift, having too much can disturb your sleep later on.
The key to finding this balance is not to eliminate caffeine altogether but rather to limit your intake throughout the night. Furthermore, it is recommended to avoid caffeine products at least 4 hours before your bedtime to help you great a restful sleep.
Similarly, nicotine and alcohol are stimulants that can disrupt your sleep and increase your risk of snoring. If you can, try avoiding smoking within 3 hours of bedtime to help you get more restful sleep.
Enjoy light during your working hours
Keeping your workplace brightly lit can increase alertness and help your body with its natural circadian rhythm. This rhythm is the body’s internal clock that tells us when to be awake and asleep, they are controlled by a part of the brain that is influenced by light. Therefore, being exposed to bright light when you start the shift can help train your internal clock to adjust.
To do this, avoid turning off lights or turning the brightness down on your devices during a night shift. If your workplace is not lit up very well, try investing in a light therapy box, lamp or visor. These products are designed to release light that mimics the sun, helping your body and brain to feel more awake during the night shift and promoting better sleep later on.
Eliminate light from your bedroom
If you have ever left work feeling exhausted and ready for sleep, only to hop into bed and discover you’re wide awake, then exposure to natural light may be to blame. Natural sunlight is part of the process that regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Having exposure to this light in your bedroom, even if your eyes are closed, may be stimulating, telling your brain its daytime and you should be awake. To combat this, it is recommended to adjust your sleeping environment by using blackout curtains or blinds to block the sunlight when you sleep during the day.
Minimise light exposure before bed
It is also important to think about sunlight exposure when travelling home from a night shift. Although this one is a little trickier and will depend on how you get home, there are still a few tips you may be able to try.
To limit sunlight exposure and make it easier to drift off, try wearing dark sunglasses or special blue light blocking ones. If this is not possible, you could try using a hat to shield yourself from the sunlight. On your way home, although it may be very tempting, try not to stop to do errands. Additionally, as your making your way home try limiting your exposure to electronic devices. You may be able to switch your device settings to “night-time mode” which may help to limit your blue light exposure and get you to drift off faster.
Minimise your stress levels
Working night shifts can be stressful, whether that’s down to the job role or just from the change in lifestyle. These high stress levels can disrupt your sleep and impact your mental health and sadly, the lack of sleep may only make it worse. Therefore, it is essential you learn to manage your stress levels to ensure you sink into a deeper sleep.
You can do this by giving yourself “me” time for relaxing or enjoying your hobbies. Another strategy is to practice one of our meditations. Meditation can calm your nervous system and quieten the mind. It can be practiced lying in bed just before sleep. It is important that after practicing the meditation, you do not to get up or you may stimulate the body again. Lastly, make sure to eat a healthy diet and enjoy gentle exercise such as yoga.
Exercise daily, but not right before bed
Regular exercise is proven to help you fall asleep faster and increase your sleep quality. It may feel difficult or time-consuming to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule, but it will be worthwhile. To sneak in some exercise, try getting of the bus or parking a few roads down from your workplace to increase your steps. You could also join an exercise class, go for a 30-minute walk or invest in a bicycle.
One important thing to bear in mind is that exercise can increase production of adrenaline which may disrupt your sleep if you do it too close to bedtime. To combat this, do not exercise within three hours of your bedtime.
Keep a bedtime routine
Whether you are sleeping during the day or at night, spending an hour to unwind after a long shift can help you calm you mind and sleep better. Practicing a bedtime routine trains your body and mind to know that it is time for sleep.
Ensure your bedtime routine is quiet, relaxed and enjoyable. It could involve reading a book, taking a long bath, enjoying a scented candle or essential oils, enjoying a relaxing bedtime drink or listening to one of our stories or meditations.
Avoid screens in bed
Our device screens, mobiles, computers, tablets and televisions, emit bright light which supresses the production of melatonin, altering our sleep-wake cycle. A slower production of melatonin makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Additionally, looking at these bright screens in the dark can cause headaches and eye strain.
To improve your chances of a restful sleep, give yourself at least 30 minutes without your devices before trying to drift off to sleep. Yes, that mean no scrolling through social media in bed! This is exactly the reason why we encourage you to put on your tale and then, put your device away from where you sleep. To ensure you drift off easier and your sleep quality improves.