Kristina Viniar of Triad Health Co. joined Steph and Rosie to talk about how folks who work “non-standard shifts” can experience sleep and health troubles. She offered tips and information to help maximize a schedule that might be difficult to manage.
“An estimated 20% of the population¹ in industrialized countries works in a job with nonstandard shifts. Approximately 10% to 38% of these workers suffer from shift work disorder, a condition marked by excessive sleepiness when awake or an inability to sleep when needed.” (Sleep Foundation.org)
A nonstandard shift if ANY work that falls outside the hours of 7 am- 6 pm and there are three different categories of work shift: Evening, night and early morning. The sleep recommendations in this article will mainly be focusing on night shift workers, however the principles can also be applied to all categories of shift workers.
Night work includes any shifts that fall between the hours of 11pm and 3am. Jobs in this category can include:
• Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare practitioners
• Firefighters, police officers, security guards, and other protective service employees
• Bakers, machinists, assembly line workers, and others who work in manufacturing and production
• Truck drivers, air traffic controllers, conveyor operators, newscasters and other person’s in TV.
Through sleep research, we know that regularly missing out on good sleep (less than 6 hours per night), can weaken our immune system, substantially increases our risk or certain forms of cancer, increases our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, can lead to weight gain, disrupts blood sugar levels and could lead to pre-diabetic or diabetic conditions and more. Not to mention, constantly feeling low energy, mood changes and irritability and other unfavorable health conditions are all possible side effects of regularly missing out on sleep. (Matthew Walker, PHD, “Why We Sleep).
Even though there are medically diagnosed sleep conditions which can be treated by a doctor, the majority of people and not just in the shift work group, could benefit from having a better sleep plan or as Kristina likes to call it, sleep hygiene.
Here are Kristina’s top suggestions for how to create a positive sleep environment and catch some much needed Zzz’s.
1. Exposure to bright light (Light Therapy) upon waking up or at the start of your shift. If you are starting your shift when the sun is up, take a 20 in walk without sunglasses in the sun. If you start your shift at night, do 20 or more min of light therapy prior. During light therapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light.
Why do this? Bright light boosts alertness and suppresses the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Exposure to bright light can keep you awake and delay when you start to feel sleepy.
2. On the flip side: REDUCE your light exposure at the end of your shift to start alerting your body that it’s time to sleep.
How? Wear blue blocking glasses after your shift or during your wind down time before bed (ideally 2 hours prior to a set sleep time)
If it’s sunny outside, wear dark sunglasses and avoid direct sunlight content with your eyes.
3. Create a favorable home sleep environment:
-Avoid electronics in the bedroom. Because they emit blue light, they truck your body into thinking it’s daylight, thus keeping your from going to bed.
-Avoid alcohol 2 hours prior to bed. Alcohol has shown to result in light spotty sleep.
-Avoid large meals prior to bed. This too can disrupt restful sleep.
-Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Think of it as your sleep cave. Make it dark, cool and quiet. Use a white noise machine, turn down the AC, turn your phone off to give your body it’s best possible chance at a restful sleep.
4. Create a sleep routine that best fits you. Other suggestions that can be helpful:
-Use sleepy time tea while reading a book.
-Wear blue-blocking glasses 2 hours before you need to be in bed.
-Keep the same sleep schedule whether you’re working or not.
-Avoid sugary meals 1-2 hours before bed.
-Listen to calming music or journal away the stresses of your day.
-Engage in breathing exercises, calming yoga or meditation.
-Try melatonin supplementation or magnesium.
Last but not least, staying active and taking care of your body’s nutrition needs as well as making a dedicated effort to prioritize sleep and rest are a powerful combination.
In today’s society, sleep get’s pushed to the back burner all the time. However nobody cancelled our biological needs for quality of sleep and the consequences for skipping out on it can have dire effects.
Happy snoozing everyone. For more information go to TriadHealthCo.com