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How to get quality sleep while on shift work

Posted by Blooms The Chemist on 20 Mar 2023

How to get quality sleep while on shift work


Working on shift work, which is any work schedule that falls outside normal business hours, can have significant impacts on your health, including your sleep.

With 1.5 million Australians being employed in shift work1, it’s highly important for your health to understand the risks of shift work and how you can get higher quality sleep while still working as a shift worker.

How does shift work impact my sleep?

Shift work impacts your sleep in a variety of ways. As the sleep-wake cycle has evolved for human beings to be awake during the day and to sleep at night, going against your circadian clock can impact your sleep.

As this has biologically evolved over thousands of years, there is no way that you can change your circadian rhythm to adapt to sleeping during the day and working at night, even if you are a permanent night shift worker1.

There is another cycle that you’re going against if you are working in shift work, which is the diurnal (night and day) cycle. Together with the circadian rhythm, these two rhythms impact a range of processes in your body, which include:

  • When you sleep and when you wake up

  • Your metabolism

  • Your heart rate

  • Your blood pressure

  • Your body temperature

  • Your immune system

When you sleep during the day and work at night, these rhythms work against your body and you’re not able to get the restorative sleep you need to repair your body.

People who work the night shift tend to get at least three hours less sleep than people who don’t2 and research indicates that sleeping during the day is less restorative, even if you get the same amount of sleep as you would at night3.

Are there increased health risks to me as a shift worker?

Unfortunately, as you’re going against a range of rhythms that impact important processes that help your body repair itself, there are increased health risks when you are a shift worker.

Some increased health risks, accidents and more include2:

  • Higher risk of mood changes

  • Higher risk of motor vehicle accidents

  • Increased risk of family issues as you’re no longer able to attend events

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Increased risk of gastrointestinal issues, including constipation and stomach discomfort

In a larger study that focused on Swedish shift workers and day workers, there is a higher mortality rate from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke in those who work in long-term shift work4.

How can I get better sleep as a shift worker?

Getting better sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to reduce the impacts that shift work can have on your body, according to Associate Professor Brad Aisbett, Associate Head of School (Teaching and Learning, Exercise and Sport Science) in Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Science.

He stressed the importance of maximising your sleep opportunities when they appear.

“Whether that’s one long period or two shorter periods, trying to get seven hours of sleep a day at least. Part of that might be managing your family situation so that you can have a quiet, cool and dark sleeping environment,” he explained to Deakin University5.

Like Aisbett explained above, making sure your bedroom is at a cool temperature, quiet and dark is optimal for getting the quality sleep you need.

Blooms The Chemist offer a range of Sleep Solutions that can help you get the ideal sleep environment you need, including sleep eye masks, ear plugs and diffusers. Explore our products today.

References

1Medical Journal of Australia, Sleep loss and circadian disruption in shift work: health burden and management, accessed 13 March 2023

2Better Health Victoria, Shift Work, accessed 13 March 2023

3Queensland Health, How shift work affects your health, accessed 13 March 2023

4Karlsson B, Alfredsson L, Knutsson A. Total mortality and cause-specific mortality of Swedish shift- and dayworkers in the pulp and paper industry in 1952-2001.Scand J Work Environ Health 2005; 31: 30-35.

5Deakin University, Is shift work bad for your health?, accessed 13 March 2023