Some of our most vital services and industries rely on shifting or irregular work schedules. Both law enforcement and fire rescue work in shifts that allow them to be vigilant and effective 24/7.
The same is true for nurses, doctors, and other hospital workers. Likewise, truck drivers who deliver goods and commodities sometimes have no choice but to work irregular shifts.
So if you’re working weird hours, you’re not alone. And there are plenty of proven and drug-free ways to make your life easier.
1 – Have a Strict Sleep Schedule
The most difficult aspects of working nights is trying to stay awake at night and trying to fall asleep during the day. This can lead to inadequate amounts of sleep, causing low levels of energy and productivity during working hours. You can try to remedy this by sticking to a strict sleep schedule.
Start with sleeping at the same time, every day/night. This conditions your body to begin putting you to sleep when this time approaches. It’s even better if you put this schedule on paper and update it live. Write down the exact time when you’re supposed to be in bed and asleep. When you wake up, immediately jot down the time, along with the number of hours you’ve slept. Keeping your sleep schedule regular will make it much easier to fall asleep when it’s time to and be alert and awake during work hours. Get used to a regular sleep schedule and soon, you might not even need an alarm clock to wake you up in time for work.
Make sure you get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep regularly. Based on research by the National Sleep Foundation, 18 to 64-year-olds require that much sleep to function normally on a daily basis. If your work has erratic schedules that don’t allow you to fall asleep at the same time each day, you should at least ensure that you’re getting enough amounts of sleep.
2 – Eat and Drink Accordingly
If you don’t eat right, you won’t sleep right. As many sleep experts will attest to, food intake directly influences sleep. If you make work schedules, it’s doubly important for you to take note of what you eat and what the hormones and chemicals in certain food and drinks can do to your body.
About 2 hours before going to bed, you should consume these foods for sleep:
- Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, and Walnuts. These are all good sources of magnesium, a chemical that relaxes muscles, relieves fatigue, and contributes to your body’s gradual entrance into a state of sleep. They can also make for very light snacking and won’t leave you feeling too full for comfort.
- Yogurt and Oatmeal. Yogurt contains the amino acid tryptophan, which aids in serotonin and melatonin production – a chemical cocktail that hormonally induces sleepiness. Oatmeal, like granola or whole-wheat crackers, contains complex carbohydrates, which allows tryptophan to be quickly absorbed and used for synthesizing sleep hormones.
- Cherries. Whether you prefer tart cherry juice or actual cherries, you’ll be treated to a healthy dose of melatonin.
Before Tackling the Workday, and Even during Breaks, You Should Consume Food for Energy:
- Regulate your Coffee and Energy Drink Intake. While they’re not exactly considered dangerous drugs, the ill effects of caffeine and energy drinks can prove to be more dangerous for those who work erratic schedules. Get your energy boost from your drinks, but do it only near the start of your shift. Go slow on your drink and don’t gulp it all down in one go. Take small sips and let the chemicals gradually do their work. Once you start feeling energized, you don’t have to finish a whole cup or can of caffeine. Put it aside for when you feel sleepy later. Use these chemicals right and they can work to your advantage.
- Salmon and Swordfish. Apart from the revitalizing aroma of cooking these fishes, they can also give you an energizing dose of Vitamin D. Additionally, Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and can even lower blood pressure, giving you some extra defense against work-related stress.
- Oranges. You already know that oranges and natural orange juice are great sources of Vitamin C. What you might not know is that Vitamin C helps oxygen travel through the body and the brain, which is what allows it to boost your energy and brain activity.
3 – Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep Oasis
Your bedroom can make or break the regularity of your sleeping patterns. Make sure that it’s conducive to sleep by following these tips:
- Get some blackout curtains or curtain liners to keep all the light out as you try to get some shut eye. Pure and complete darkness signals the body to secrete and synthesize more melatonin.
- Get the comfiest mattress you can afford. No amount of strict scheduling and eating right can get you to sleep if your mattress is bad for your back. But if you sleep on a bed that’s right for you, you’ll definitely have less trouble sleeping during ‘weird’ hours.
- Don’t work, watch TV, or read exciting books in bed. If you associate your bed with stimulating activities, it’s going to be harder to get into the mindset of sleeping when you’re lying in bed. As much as possible, only use your bed for sleeping or relaxing activities, like having sex or practicing restorative yoga.
4 – Keep a Strict Exercise Schedule
Exercising is one of the best ways to handle shifting work and sleep schedules. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of exercise per week can improve the quality of your sleep by as much as 65 percent. You can start racking up those 150 minutes by performing moderate to vigorous exercises before tackling your workday. It not only gives you a jolt of energy, but can also train your body’s internal clocks to keep you awake during the workday and let you sleep whenever your schedule allows you to.
Run. It’s the easiest way to stimulate your entire body and awaken your senses. 10 to 15 minutes of continuous running is enough to pump you up with some much-needed endorphin and Adrenalin for handling the workday ahead. If you work your way up to 30 minutes up to an hour of continuous running, it could really help you self-regulate your states of wakefulness and sleep.
Do planks. Get on the floor and position your elbows right underneath your shoulders as the other side of your body is held up by the balls of your feet. Tighten your quads, butt, abs, and shoulders to ensure that your entire body is absolutely straight. But keep your neck relaxed. Hold this position for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Eventually, as you get used to the exercise, try to hold it for a minute or even longer. Planks are great for building the core muscles that allow you to keep a good posture. And the better your posture is, the more confidence and energy you’ll have at the start of your shift (even if it’s in the early morning).
You don’t necessarily have to take pharmaceutical drugs in order to cope with strange shifts or erratic work schedules. Follow the above drug-free steps and you’ll be able to sleep with consistency, avoiding lethargy during your working hours.