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Wellbeing Week: Managing Sleep as a Shift Worker

Gregory Pappas R Uc9h Ve L E Unsplash

vetro-care, healthy, health and wellbeing...

Why people do shift work

For many people, shift working within the Health, Social Care, and Nursing sectors is a normal part of life, and with it being Wellbeing Week, we thought we would at why that is and also look into the best ways to manage sleep as a shift worker.

In the UK, 11.5% of the workforce are night shift workers (TUC) and there are many work patterns outside of the “normal” 9 to 5. So why do people like shift work and how can you best manage it?  Here are just a few reasons some of our agency workers have said they enjoy agency shift work:

“A shift is 12 hours long meaning I only need to work 3 days a week to earn the equivalent of a full-time job. I get 4 days a week off work to enjoy with my family. If I want to work more I can and that's great when I need extra money for holidays”

“I like night shifts as I'm a young parent and working nights means I don’t have to worry about childcare costs and can be around for the school run”

“I'm a student and enjoy both night shifts and the flexibility that shift work provides. It allows me to fund my education and I can fit it in around my studies”

Unlike many industries, the health and social care sector operates 24/7, 365 days of the year. Shift work is the foundation for many of these roles.

How to get sleep and remain healthy

We are often told how important sleep is for our health and wellbeing, so how can you get a good sleep pattern as a shift worker? Here are some techniques to help you manage your sleep better and to improve your health and wellbeing as a shift worker:

  • Consistency. The key is to be consistent with your sleep on a daily basis. The recommended sleep is 8 hours a day, but we know this is often very difficult to achieve. If you can manage 6 hours of sleep on the days you work, try to maintain these 6 hours every other day. The urge for a longer sleep will be there on your days off, but this causes irregularity and hinders your sleep when you are working.

  • If you struggle with energy on a night shift, try to have a short nap (no more than 40 minutes), 2 hours before your shift.

  • Don’t drink a caffeinated drink for at least 6 hours before you plan to go to bed.

  • Don’t rush to get home from work. Rushing causes adrenaline and you need to remain calm.

  • Make sure the bedroom is decorated to support you with your sleep patterns. The room should be neutral with calming decor. Invest in a good quality mattress and pillows, blackout blinds or curtains, and try to keep the room at a comfortable 16℃ - 18℃.

  • Make the room ready for sleep before you start your winding down activities to allow your body to adjust to the darker environment.

  • Eat a light snack or meal before going to bed. Try to avoid heavy meals or meals that are difficult to digest, for example, fatty or greasy foods, spicy foods, etc. These will cause difficulty in digestion and can disturb your sleep.

  • Go for a light walk or take a hot bath to relax shortly before you go to bed.

  • Avoid watching TV or looking at a computer screen/mobile device.

  • Put gadgets to silent, use earplugs if you live in a noisy environment, and enjoy your sleep.

Research shows that people who follow these techniques do sleep better, and therefore manage to improve their health and wellbeing. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies and helps to control sleep patterns. Having a warm bath and walking into a colder, darker bedroom afterward, helps to release melatonin to provoke sleep. Eating heavy meals, blue screens, having the light shine through your window, all suppress melatonin and is a key contributor to sleep deprivation and insomnia. (Sleep Foundation)

The health and social care sector allows so many people to work shift patterns that suit their lifestyles. Whether you are looking for day shifts, night shifts, weekend work, or mixed shift patterns, we can help you. If you are interested in working with us at Vetro, please get in touch today here.