Take a warm bath
Lower the room temperature (a cool environment improves sleep)
Don’t “activate” your brain by balancing a checkbook, reading a thriller, or doing other stressful activities
Darken the bedroom and bathroom.
Install light blocking and sound absorbing curtains or shades.
Wear eye shades. Install carpeting and drapes to absorb sound.
Unplug the telephone.
Wear ear plugs
Use a white noise machine or a fan to block out noises
Balancing Life and Work
The shift worker faces special problems in trying to maintain family relationships and social and community ties. It becomes difficult to balance work, sleep and personal time. The need to sleep during the day (or, for the evening worker, to be on the job during the dinner hour and the family-oriented part of the day) means that the shift worker often misses out on family activities, entertainment and other social interaction. That is why it is important to talk with family members and friends about your concerns. With their help, you can schedule special times to share with a spouse, children and friends. Remember that sleep loss and feeling at odds with the rest of the world can make you irritable, stressed and depressed. As one expert puts it, “Blame the shift work — not your kids!”
Avoid caffeine at least five hours before bedtime
Don’t stop for a drink after work; while you may feel relaxed at first, alcohol actually disturbs sleep
Eat a light snack before bedtime. Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry
If you exercise at the workplace, do so at least three hours before you plan on going to bed. Otherwise, exercise after you sleep. Because exercise is alerting and raises the body temperature, it should not be done too close to bedtime
It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule, even on days off and weekends. However, if you can’t get enough sleep or feel drowsy, naps as short as 20 minutes can be helpful. Naps can maintain or improve alertness, performance and mood. Some people feel groggy or drowsy after a nap.
These feelings usually go away within 1-15 minutes, while the benefits of the nap may last for many hours. The evening or night worker can take a nap before work to be refreshed. Studies show that napping at the workplace is especially effective for workers who need to maintain a high degree of alertness, attention to detail, or make quick decisions. In situations where the worker is working double shifts or longer, naps at the workplace are even more important.
The Ride Home
Driving home after work can be risky for the shift worker, particularly since you have been awake all night and the body needs to sleep. For the evening worker coming home around midnight, the risk of meeting drunk drivers is higher. People think that opening the car windows or listening to the radio will keep them awake. However, studies show that these methods do not work. In fact, these actions should signal you that you are fatigued and need to pull over immediately. If you are sleepy when your shift is over, try to take a nap before driving home. Remember, sleep can quickly overcome you when you don’t want it to.
Follow these steps to arrive home safely:
Carpool, if possible. Have the most alert person do the driving
If you are sleepy, stop to nap, but do so in your locked car in a well-lit area
Take public transportation, if possible
Don’t stop off for a “night cap.”
Promoting Alertness at Work
Just as you can take steps to ensure a good night’s — or day’s — sleep, you can try these steps to stay alert on the job.
Take short breaks throughout the shift
Try to work with a “buddy.”
Talking with co-workers can help keep you alert. And co-workers can be on the lookout for signs of drowsiness in each other
Try to exercise during breaks
Use the employee lounge, take a walk, shoot hoops in the parking lot, or climb stairs
Try to eat three normal meals per day. Eat healthy snacks, avoiding foods that may upset your stomach
If you consume caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, gum, mints), do so early in the shift, e.g., before 3 a.m. for the night worker
Don’t leave the most tedious or boring tasks to the end of your shift when you are apt to feel the drowsiest
Night shift workers hit their lowest period around 4 a.m.
Exchange ideas with your colleagues on ways to cope with the problems of shift work
Set up a support group at work so that you can support and learn from each other
For the Employer
There are a number of ways you can make your workplace safer and more productive for your shift workers. Educate managers and shift workers about the need for sleep and the dangers of fatigue.
Install bright lights in the work areas. A well-lit workplace signals the body that it is time to be awake and alert. Provide vending machines with healthy food choices
Schedule shifts to allow sufficient breaks and days off, especially when workers are re-assigned to different shifts. Plan enough time between shifts to allow employees to both get enough sleep and also attend to their personal life. Don’t promote overtime among shift workers
Develop a napping policy. Encourage napping by providing a sleep-friendly space and time for scheduled employee naps. A short break for sleep can improve alertness, judgment, safety, and productivity
Be concerned about employee safety going to and from work. Encourage the use of carpools, public transportation, rested drivers, and even taxis