Most people in the caring professions, at least at some point in their career, will work night shifts.
Care for the frail and elderly doesn’t only happen during business hours. People who need care often require it around the clock.
Working night shift suits some people. The flexible hours may fit in with family responsibilities. The extra loading for working at night is also appealing. Some prefer to work at night because there are fewer visitors and management staff present, meaning there might be fewer distractions as your go about your work.
But working at night places a great strain on the body.
Humans have an internal clock – known as circadian rhythms – that tells them when it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to wake up.
Working night shift disrupts your body’s natural sleep patterns.
When you’re working at night, you might feel overwhelmingly tired at some point because your body is telling you it’s time to go to sleep.
And when you’re trying to sleep, you might struggle to fall asleep, or you might fall asleep, but wake up shortly afterwards and not be able to get back to sleep.
Working at night can also increase the likelihood of work-related accidents, it can affect mood, cause stomach and cardiovascular issues, and also increase a person’s likelihood they will develop drugs and alcohol problems.
Thankfully a lot of research has been done in this area, and there are ways to improve your sleep when working at night.
Regis College in the US has released a guide for shift workers with some of the latest thinking on how best to manage night shift.
The guide points to the work of Professor Charmane Eastman, Biological Rhythms Research Lab, Rush University Medical Centre, and the US National Sleep Foundation. Both recommend ways to improve the quality of sleep when you’re working night shift.
First of all, let friends and family know when you’re going to be on night shift so they know not to contact you during the hours you’re trying to sleep.
Working night shift is not easy; it can impact on every aspect of life. But with a little thought and the right preparation, you will be able to successfully make the transition to night worker.