Help For Shift Workers

Challenging schedules can make it difficult to get the right amount and quality of sleep.

Whether you work 12-hour shifts, rotate shifts, or work an evening or overnight shift, that schedule can confuse your body’s natural function. Why is that?

The answer is melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body that puts the body and mind in a quiet state, promoting restful sleep. 

Darkness prompts the body to produce melatonin, preparing us for sleep. 

Light suppresses melatonin production and promotes wakefulness. 

(This is why, even under normal schedules, it’s important to avoid extra light from TV, phones and other electronics before bed.) among other things, produces sleepiness. 

When you are awake and working at night, and then trying to sleep during daylight, the body’s natural melatonin cycle is disrupted. 

This can make it hard for you to have a natural sleep pattern, makes falling asleep difficult and reduces your overall quality of sleep.

Use these strategies to help manipulate your melatonin to give you better quality sleep:

For 2nd shift workers (afternoon start, into the night):

  • Get outside in the afternoon and get some daylight before coming to work.

For 2nd shift and 3rd shift (overnight) workers:

  • Keep the lights on during breaks – resist the urge to find a dark room and catnap.
  • Replace light bulbs at home with daylight-simulating light bulbs – also known as “sunlight bulbs” or “full spectrum light bulbs”. These bulbs best simulate natural sunshine. As you are getting ready for your shift, this will better suppress melatonin and make you more alert for work.
  • When going home in the morning, wear dark sunglasses to help to begin to stimulate your melatonin production and prepare your body for sleep.
  • Remember to block as much sunlight as possible when it’s time for sleep. Use an eyeshade, room darkening shades and/or blackout curtains.
  • Avoid backlit electronics and blue light. Activate the blue light filter on your phone. When you go to sleep, flip the phone face down or turn your alarm clock around so no light shows.