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  • The Sound Sleeper

Have a non-traditional schedule? You can be a successful sleeper

Today’s workers can have non-traditional work schedules due to the needs of their employer and time zones of their co-workers, clients and suppliers. If you’re one of the growing number of people who work at night, in the early morning or rotating shifts — outside of the hours of 6 am and 7 pm — you may be prone to “shift work disorder.” Working counter to the body’s natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle (the circadian rhythm) can affect your safety and health.

The risks of shift work

Those who do shift work lose an average of one to four hours of sleep per night, putting them at risk for:
  • Insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Workplace and road accidents
  • Mental and chronic health problems including cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer

How to cope

Focus on getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Some tips:
  • Align your wake-up and personal time as closely as possible to when you feel your best and naturally go to sleep.
  • If you have an upcoming shift change, move your wake-up time 10-15 minutes a day a few weeks before to make the transition easier.
  • Take short breaks during your shift and a quick nap if you weren’t able to get your seven to nine hours of sleep. Drinking a cup of coffee before a 20-minute nap allows optimal timing for the caffeine to take effect.
  • Avoid heavy meals before and after your shift and eat healthy snacks.
  • Hydrate with plenty of water; avoid drinking too many caffeinated beverages.
  • Expose yourself to light when you wake up and reduce exposure when you are winding down.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night/day, weekends included.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Healthline; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Sleep Foundation; Koritala, B et al. (2021) Night shift schedule causes circadian dysregulation of DNA repair genes and elevated DNA damage in humans, Journal of Pineal Research; Lahtinen, A et al. (2021) Differential DNA methylation in recovery from shift work disorder, Scientific Reports; Waggoner, L et al. (2012) A Combined Field and Laboratory Design for Assessing the Impact of Night Shift Work on Police Officer Operational Performance, SLEEP; Williamson, A et al. (2000) Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication, Occup Environ Med.

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