Working in Shifts? Manage Your Sleep Better!

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We live in a society that functions 24 hours a day-7 days a week. Some of you might be working in a profession that demands your presence round the clock; healthcare, aviation, IT, security, to name a few. It is imperative that you learn to cope with and get adapted to such work demands, limiting the adverse impacts of shift-work on your health.

Working in night and rotational shifts tends to upset the circadian rhythm causing serious health problems such as Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD), some of its common symptoms are;

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  • Headaches
  • Difficulty in focusing
  • Feeling exhausted but unable to sleep or stay asleep
  • Excessive sleepiness during work hours
  • Too many errors or accidents at workplace
  • Low mood
  • Reduced immunity
  • Unexplained weight gain

If untreated, SWSDs can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, cancer, heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, impaired cognitive ability, cause accidents and errors at work. Effects of SWSD can linger even after you stop doing shifts.

Need a practical solution? Experts have listed some tips to help you manage SWSD effects at work.

  • Take short naps of 15-20 mins during work shift, if possible.
  • Plan your monthly roster such that you get 2 days off after a 5 day shift-job.
  • Avoid long commutes.
  • Ensure that your workplace is brightly lit to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid coffee or other stimulants towards end of the shift.
  • Wear dark shades and limit exposure to sunlight after night shifts.
  • Pre-plan your naps according to your shift timings.
  • Occasional use of pharmacotherapy, if prescribed by the physician.

The biggest challenge for shift workers is to get the ideal sleep environment at home, usually when they are ready to unwind the others at home are getting geared for the day. With the cooperation of family members, certain changes on the home-front can help you create an appropriate sleep environment. For example;

  • Avoid household chores like washing utensils, vacuuming, etc. during your bedtime.
  • Turn-off the door-bell.
  • Switch mobiles to silent mode.
  • Play TV or music at low volume.
  • Use black out curtains in your room and noise cancelling devices like headphone or sound-proof window panes.
  • Ensure you get adequate sleep so that you are alert during your work hours.
  • Maintain healthy diet, regularly exercise, and follow your sleep schedule on day-offs too.

Lifestyle changes are the safest way to treat sleep disorders but at times it isn’t enough and that is when supplements like Melatonin comes in the picture. Though Melatonin is relatively safer than other sleeping aids it shouldn’t be taken without consulting a doctor. The best way to deal with SWSD is by talking to your Managers and peers while planning your monthly roster.



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