We’re here to help: it’s our dream job.
If your job involves shift work, you’re likely to need some extra help or advice on how to maintain the right amount of sleep to keep you healthy at home, and safe at work.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to some of the largest industrial accidents in recent memory, including the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (4am); Chernobyl (1.30am); the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Our medical teams often face a range of questions from candidates who are new to, or struggling with, shift patterns. Dr Dan Hegarty deals with some common concerns, here, to help you make the right decisions.
‘We’ve all sat next to someone who’s fallen asleep on the train – how often have you wondered whether they were going to or coming back from work, or why they’re so tired, and what effect that will have on their performance or their colleagues’ safety?
‘Sleep issues have never been more important since sleep deprivation causes a whole range of health issues, from increased weight gain, to lack of concentration through to a number of mental health conditions. We’re working harder for longer hours – and there have never been more distractions to keep us awake.
We don’t just sleep in our bedrooms any more. In addition we watch TV, eat, browse on electronic devices – not exactly conducive to a calm, relaxing night’s rest.
So what can we do to help ourselves regain balance and ensure we wake up ready for the day, instead of planning when we can get back under the duvet?
What we know
Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours sleep a night, although this amount decreases with age. And, obviously, it can be harder to sleep in the daytime than at night, because it’s brighter and there are more noisy distractions.
If you’re trying to find a suitable sleep pattern that works for you, those you live with and those you work with, it can be helpful to keep a sleep diary, so you can work out when it’s best for you personally to get quality sleep. Once you’ve found that ideal pattern, try to stick to it. This pattern might include the following:
Creating a restful place to sleep
- Sleep in a designated part of the house and make sure it’s dark, cool and comfortable
- Ensure it’s as quiet as possible. If there is outside noise, or you’re trying to sleep while others are awake, either ask them to keep noise to a minimum (nicely, it’s not always possible) or invest in some earplugs
- Use heavy curtains or blackout blinds to keep the room as dark as possible.
The right frame of mind
- Go for a walk, listen to music or read a book before you go to sleep – get into a routine because it helps your body know what’s coming next
- Don’t use electronic devices as the blue light they emit can affect the quality of your sleep
- Avoid caffeine or energy drinks since these are highly stimulating to help a good night’s rest
- Avoid alcohol as it lowers the quality of sleep
Other hygiene factors
- Regular exercise can help you reach a deeper sleep. However, make sure it’s not too close to bedtime (within two hours) as that can make it harder to fall asleep
- Try not to take your worries to bed since internal stimuli will affect your ability to get to sleep. Hardly anyone can voluntarily make themselves fall asleep instantly. If you have concerns, make a list and an action plan to deal with them, however, leave the list in a different room to confront yourself with when you wake up with a rested mind. Worrying, when you can’t do anything about it results in destructiveness to your physical and mental health.
If you’d like further information or sleep advice or want to find out more about our shift workers’ medical, contact our commercial team on 0207 500 6900.