About one in five people work during the evening or night, or in early morning hours. Some are “night owls” and adjust easily, but many people get sleepy during work time or are unable to sleep between work shifts. This can lead to accidents, mistakes at work, and moodiness or being irritable. There are some things you can do to help.
What can I do to sleep better?
Start with good sleep hygiene:
- Make your bedroom cool, quiet, and comfortable.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sexual activity.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine close to bedtime.
- Shut off or cover bright lights such as from the TV, computer, or clock.
- Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Consider these additional tips to help you sleep between your shifts:
- Use earplugs and an eye mask to block out noise and light.
- Place heavy curtains or blinds over windows to block out sunlight.
- Wear sunglasses on your way home from work to avoid exposure to bright light.
- Make others in your home aware of your schedule. Ask them to keep the noise down and not wake you from sleep if possible.
You might also try taking melatonin to help you sleep. Melatonin is a chemical that your body makes. You may not make enough if you work at night. You can buy melatonin without a prescription; ask your pharmacist to help you choose a product and for advice on how to take it.
Check with your prescriber if you still have trouble sleeping. He or she may ask you to keep track of your sleep schedule or send you for studies to look at the way you sleep. You may need a prescription medicine to help you sleep.
What can I do to feel awake and alert at work?
Getting enough sleep is key to feeling awake and alert at work. Shoot for a total of eight hours of sleep each day. Consider a good nap right before work. If it’s okay at your workplace, take a short nap during your break. Or try an activity such as taking a walk during your break. See which strategy helps you feel the best.
Having some caffeine can help you perk up, but don’t overdo it. Too much might make you feel jittery and anxious. Also avoid caffeine within four hours of your bedtime since it might keep you from getting the rest you need.
Try to keep the lights bright in your work area, especially at the beginning of a shift, and the temperature cool at work to prevent sleepiness.
If you’re still having trouble staying awake and alert at work, contact your prescriber. There might be a prescription medicine that will help you.
Content taken from Pharmacist’s Letter.