10 Tips for Healthy Sleep When You Work Night Shifts

Working the night shift poses unique challenges to your health and wellbeing.

People who work nights, such as nurses and doctors, are at greater risk for heart disease, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and sleep disorders. The good news is that these health risks can be mitigated if you follow these tips (at least most of the time).

  1. If possible, request to work night shifts in longer blocks (eg. 3 weeks) and maintain your sleep schedule on your days off. Research shows that workers who switch frequently between nights and days have more sleep problems.[i]

  2. Control your exposure to light. Our circadian rhythm is significantly influenced by light. So when you awaken, put on bright lights. When it is time to sleep, keep lighting dim. Wear sunglasses on your way home.

  3. Use caffeine at the beginning of your day but abstain from it 3-4 hours before you plan to sleep.

  4. Avoid sugary foods, opting for healthier, nutrient dense foods. Our bodies have a decreased ability to metabolize glucose at night[ii] and this may contribute to the increased risk night workers have for Type 2 Diabetes. Eat light, nutrient dense foods when you are working overnight.

  5. If allowed, take a nap during the night.

  6. Avoid alcohol before bed.  It may seems to help you get to sleep but it suppresses melatonin production leading to disrupted REM sleep which is important to our brain function[iii].

  7. Maintain a relaxing bedtime ritual. This may include a bath, relaxing essential oils and listening to calming music. Keep the lights dim.

  8. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.

  9. Take a nap before your shift. This contributes to greater alertness during your shift[iv].

  10. Avoid long work hours and long commutes, both of which can contribute to less time to sleep.

  11. Talk to your family so they can support healthy sleep habits for you. Make sure they understand that you should not be disturbed when you’re sleeping during the day unless it’s a serious emergency. (And not being able to login to Fortnight is not an emergency!)


[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2668321/

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201801/alcohol-and-sleep-what-you-need-know

[iv] https://www.sleephelp.org/sleep-help-shift-workers/