Shift Work Disorder: Tips to Help Shift Workers Sleep Better

Shift Work Disorder: Tips to Help Shift Workers Sleep Better

5 minute read

Shift work can interfere with a good night of sleep. If you’re working the night shift and arrive home just as the sun is rising, it can be difficult to get to sleep with light pouring in the windows and the sounds of day-to-day life in the background. In addition, if you work rotating shifts and your schedule is often changing, it can be challenging to settle into a regular sleep routine. All of these can add up to sleep deprivation, and over time, worsened health. If you’re wondering how to deal with sleep and shift work, there are steps you can take to get better rest.

Understanding Shift Work Disorder

The first step toward a better night of sleep with shift work is understanding the impact of shift work disorder, or shift work sleep disorder. This is a sleep disorder that occurs in individuals who work odd shifts, such as the night shift, or who work rotating shifts, because the body has difficulty aligning the shift work sleep schedule with its natural internal clock. Shift work disorder can result in symptoms such as inadequate sleep, difficulty falling asleep, and feeling unrested upon waking. Studies suggest that it occurs in about 10 percent of shift workers, and can lead to problems like poor performance at work.

Research also suggests that shift work disorder may be caused by low levels of the brain chemical serotonin among those who work odd schedules. What can be concluded from these facts is that performing shift work causes physiological changes in the body that can disrupt sleep. What we also know is that night shift work and depression may go hand-in-hand, since low serotonin levels may be linked to depression. Depression can make sleep problems among shift workers even worse, as it is linked to sleep disturbances.

How to Improve Shift Work Sleep Problems

If you’re employed in a shift work job and experiencing sleep difficulties, your body may be working against you, but there are things you can do to sleep better. Experts recommend some of the following strategies:

  • Establish a consistent routine, going to bed around the same time and waking up at the same time as much as possible.
  • Go to bed right after work, so you are not exposed to additional daylight that wakes up the mind.
  • Consider wearing sunglasses on the way home to block out the light, so your brain does not register that it is time to be awake.
  • Maintain a quiet, dark bedroom, during the day, with an ideal temperature that is cool and optimal for sleep. You may have to use a white noise machine, a fan, and blackout blinds to keep your sleep environment ideal.
  • Cut back on caffeine in the last half of your shift, so its stimulating effects do not keep you awake when you get home.
  • Update friends and loved ones on your schedule, so they will know not to disturb you during the day when you’re sleeping.
  • If other remedies fail, consult with your doctor, who may prescribe a sleep medication or refer you to behavioral therapy to treat sleep issues.

Weighted Blankets for Treating Shift Work Disorder

If the above solutions are not enough to treat shift work sleep disorder symptoms, a weighted blanket can serve as an alternative or adjunctive therapy. Weighted blankets provide deep touch therapy to the body, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and has a calming effect. If sunlight and background noises are keeping you awake after you come home from your night shift job, a weighted blanket can relax the body so you are able to get the rest that you need during the day.

Furthermore, weighted blankets may alleviate symptoms that come from night shift work and depression. Remember that shift work is linked to lower serotonin levels, which can lead to depression and interfere with sleep. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that weighted blankets improved sleep in people with conditions like depression and bipolar disorder, and they experienced relief of daytime fatigue, depression, and anxiety with a weighted blanket. These benefits can make a world of difference for individuals suffering from shift work and sleep problems.

Improve Sleep with an Aricove Weighted Blanket

If a weighted blanket seems like a solution to your shift work sleep problems, Aricove offers a cooling weighted blanket in various weights as a solution to sleep disturbances. We have a weighted blanket of 15 lbs, as well as 10, 12, 17, and 20 lb versions. Our weighted blankets are made with premium bamboo fabric, which is naturally moisture wicking and soft, to provide you with optimal comfort while you try to catch some daytime shut-eye.

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