Most of us call it our body clock, though it does have a fancy scientific type name of Circadian rhythms.
Most of us call it our body clock, though it does have a fancy scientific type name of Circadian rhythms. At the end of the day they refer to the same thing, the physical, mental and behavioural changes that occur in a person on a 24 hour cycle. For shift workers the disruption to this natural cycle can bring a number of problems, particularly to sleep habits.
For many shift workers, falling asleep is a bit like Alice in Wonderlands’ trip down the rabbit hole; a slow fall where time drags on whilst you hope for the destination to be reached.
The good news is you can take steps to help achieve good sleep habits and in the long run become more effective when you are awake.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine (tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks) and nicotine at least four to five hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol for at least four hours prior to bedtime. Whilst alcohol may appear to help induce sleep it actually causes sleep disturbances later in your sleep cycle. It can have the double negative effect of causing you to wake and finding it harder to get back to sleep.
- Maintain a sleep schedule. Consistency is key to developing good habits.
- Keep your room cool; it helps you get to sleep and stay that way.
- Train your brain to associate your bed with sleep and sex only. That means no watching television, playing computer games or even reading in bed.
- White-noise can help. The hum of a fan or the drone of an air-conditioner are effective ways to block out external noise and give you something to focus on.
- Darken the room. Block out blinds on your windows, a sleep mask or even sleeping in dark sunglasses.
- Have a pre-bedtime ritual. A warm shower, listening to a certain piece of music or reading a book (just not in bed).
- Use a sign to alert your neighbours that you are a shift worker. Not everyone on site works shifts so they may forget to be considerate to those that do.
When you wake there are a number of steps you can take to prepare you for sleep after your shift is over.
- Seek out sunlight. Sunlight is a cue to your body clock to wake-up. If you are on the night shift get as much sun as you can when you wake in the afternoon before starting your shift. The opposite is also true, when you finish a night shift you want to avoid the sun to stop your body being stimulated. Consider wearing caps and dark sunglasses until it is time for bed.
- Exercise before work not after. Exercise will increase your alertness, so doing it before work makes sense. Avoid it before bed, as it will make it harder to get to, and stay, asleep.
Like all good things developing good sleep habits takes time. Implement the changes and see them through, hopefully to a better and more rested you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This health and well-being information is not intended to replace advice that might be provided by a medical professional. The information is general in nature, it may be incomplete and may be unsuited to your personal circumstances. Mining People International does not accept liability for any action taken by any person as a result of this general information.