I was at work the other day, and inevitably as a night shifter, everyone’s sleep schedules became a topic of conversation.
I touched on my sleep scheduled a little while back in this post. I shared my sleep and workout schedule on a few nursing pages, and SO many people were appalled that I “only” got 6-6.5 hours of sleep in between shifts. Now, I do not disagree with these arguing 6 hours is not enough. However, after talking to some other people who work nights, I am confident that my sleep schedule is so much better than many other shift workers, especially if you consider that I also make time to prioritize working out in between shifts. I have recently been able to push my bedtime up a little because my commute time has decreased, so I have made it a goal to get closer to the 7-8 hours of sleep range if I can.
I’ve heard many people tell me they take sleep aids, or they stay up for 36+ hours after nights, so by the time they hit their bed they are in zombie-mode and just pass out. As someone who has worked nights for over 2.5 years, I can successfully say I have never used more than Melatonin (which I have used maybe a dozen times) and I rarely have days I can’t sleep.
Why? Because I take steps to ensure that I get good, quality sleep, and I prioritize sleep as much as I prioritize workouts and healthy eating. In addition, by striking an ideal sleep+exercise balance, you can limit caffeine intake and reduce stress, which also keeps cortisol levels at bay. This is key if you are trying to build muscle, and you can read more about cortisol and its effects on the body here.
Here is an interesting graphic on the importance of sleep:
Some things I do to make sure I get QUALITY sleep, which is just as important as the quantity:
- I have my iPad and iPhone set to turn to “Night Shift” at 0800. This switches the lighting from a blue hue to an amber hue, which helps the brain Business Insider published an interesting graphic on the importance of this, and I can say from personal experience that this has helped me fall asleep faster after I get off work.
- Blackout curtains are also crucial. I am lucky in my new apartment that we have heavy-duty blinds and my apartment faces the courtyard so there’s less light anyway, but in previous places I’ve used even just simple blackout curtains from Target or Walmart.
- Refrain from Facebook, Netflix, or other social media before bead. After a busy work night, your brain has a much harder time winding down when trying to engage in a show or on social media. Read a book or magazine to help your brain relax and wind down, or listen to calming music. This was another habit I had to break, but I noticed a huge difference when I did.
- Make your bed extra comfy. Now, I am a bargain shopper to a fault. But I have found that having an excellent mattress, sheets, and pillows makes such a huge difference when it comes to sleep quality. I didn’t ever miss my bed as a kid (probably because my mom bought cheap “kid” mattresses). But ever since investing in a quality mattress, even the 5-star resort mattresses can’t compete with my bed at home. I’m super intrigued by this brand and may have to give their sheets a test drive soon (I’ll let you know if I do!).
- Recognize that all night shifters have bad days. Some days, I don’t get off work until 8:30, so I sleep in and just do some mobility at home if I can’t get to the gym. Or my neighbor’s dog barks for 2 hours in the afternoon, so I call it a wash and drink some extra coffee. Regardless, it is consistency over time that makes a difference, so if you continue to rest and recover on every other day, the few bad days will not make a difference.