Important Message from The Joint Chiropractic regarding COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) - Read More

Shift Work and Your Sleep

By Krista Elliott

Dolly Parton sang about the perils of working 9 to 5. But for healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, industrial workers, and many call center workers, 9 to 5 is more like 4 to midnight. Or 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

Shift work is an unavoidable reality for many American workers. What many people don't realize, however, is that shift work can have serious negative effects on your physical and emotional health. 

There are a lucky few who can work all kinds of weird shifts and still get plenty of sleep when they're home, whether they're falling into bed in the dark of midnight or in the bright midday sun. (I'm one of those people. If there was an Olympic Sleep Team, I'd be a gold medalist). For most other people, shift work sleep disorder is a very real thing, where people are sleepy during their shift and then frustratingly awake when they could actually be sleeping. 

As diurnal creatures, we're made to work and play when the sun is in the sky, and to sleep when it's dark. When we upend that, it is a lot harder to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to get the kind of quality, restorative deep sleep that our bodies need. The results aren't pretty, with increased irritability and memory loss, a lack of focus, and an increased risk of insulin resistance and heart disease. 

How to Get Better Sleep When You Do Shift Work

Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks that you can use to improve your sleep and your health when you're a shift worker. 

  • Talk to your manager about your shift rotation. A gradual rotation is much easier to adjust to than a schedule that has you working from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. one week, and then 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. the next week. 
  • If you're a coffee or tea drinker, switch to water during the last few hours of your shift, so that you're not hopped up on caffeine just as you're trying to get to sleep. 
  • Tune out the world. After a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, I would plug in my headphones and listen to a relaxation hypnosis app while wearing an eye mask. The dark fooled my brain into thinking it was nightime, while the soft relaxation sounds helped tune out traffic, birds, or other outside noises. And don't forget to turn off the ringer on your cell phone and your home phone!
  • Have a ritual. It works for toddlers and will work for you. No matter what time you're going to bed, if you follow the same routine (a warm decaffeinated drink, a soothing bath, or a few pages of poetry) before bed, then your brain will associate those actions with sleep. Eventually, just drawing your bath or boiling your kettle will get your brain into sleepytime mode. 

You may not be able to get away from shift work, but by improving your sleep hygeine and taking steps to persuade your wakeful brain that it's bedtime, you can help keep shift work from negatively affecting your health and life. 

Download your offer today and save!

$29 New Patient Special, Consultation | Exam | Adjustment

Offer valued at $45. Valid for new patients only. See clinic for chiropractor(s)' name and license info. Clinics managed and/or owned by franchisee or Prof. Corps. Restrictions may apply to Medicare eligible patients. Individual results may vary.