Shift work is not easy because it involves forcing your body to operate counter to its natural / circadian rhythm (the internal clock that tells your body when to go to sleep and when to wake up). You have to be active and alert at night when your body is programmed to sleep, and sleep during the day when your body is wired to be awake. Following are some tips on how to manage the night shift effectively.
- Eat healthy
Night shift also means a change in your eating habits. Just like you had an eating habit / pattern before coming into night shift, plan a new one according to your shift. It is important to eat a healthy meal. A healthy diet plan will keep you well, and alert. Have a light snack for a quick energy boost at night. Whole grains are a good choice. Avoid eating right before you go to sleep.
Exercising, in general, can keep you healthy. Exercising before work can give you an energy boost, and you need all the energy for your night shift. Avoid exercising before going to sleep. Night shifts are more taxing to your body than a day shift. Exercising on a daily basis will help to keep your body, as well as your mind, in a healthy state.
- Adjust your schedule
Remember that the world does not revolve around you. Adjust your schedules to suit the world, rather than expecting the world to adjust to your schedule. Make time to spend with friends and family. Make time to do errands that have to be done during the day, like going to the bank or going to the hospital or grocery shopping. If you are unable to make time during the day, then ask a friend or a family member to take care of a particular task.
- Keep a check on your physical and mental health
The night shift may cause health problems in some people. Monitoring your health regularly will tell you whether you are having any trouble because of the night shift. Lack of sleep, reduced sleep quality, constant fatigue, and anxiety or depression are some of the symptoms to look out for. If you notice any of these, then consult your doctor or make a change in your schedule.
- Learn and adjust to your circadian rhythm
The main force behind your circadian rhythm is exposure to light or dark. It affects your sleep-wake schedule. Exposure to light will send the message to your body that it is time to be active. Low or no light will tell your body that it is time to sleep. So, take measures to remove any light from your room during the day. Use heavy blinds to block out sunlight.
Most of the call centers will be brightly lit during its operational hours. It helps to keep you alert, and awake. In case you are sitting in a place that is not brightly lit, request your manager to light it up.
- Go to sleep as soon as you get home from work
It is better to go to sleep as soon as you reach home. Try to reach home as soon as possible, as well. Take the shortest route home. It will also help to get the maximum amount of sleep. It is good for your body to get at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Having said that, it is also important that you stay alert during your drive home. If you are feeling drowsy, pull over, and rest.
- Maintain a sleep schedule
If you want to balance out your circadian rhythm, then stick to a strict sleeping pattern / habit / discipline. A sleep schedule is whatever works best for you. Just make sure to stick to it. A regular sleep schedule will help to establish a natural rhythm over time. This will help you to sleep better, and make you feel rested, and well. Ease into the new sleep schedule slowly. Keep the schedule even on nights off. If you get off the schedule for any reason, try to get back on it as soon as possible.
- Wear sunglasses on your way / drive home
Light exposure on your way home might make it more difficult to fall asleep as soon as you reach home. So it is a good idea to wear a sunglass on your way home.
- Reduce external / outside noise
A lot of sound / noise can also keep you awake. Try to block out any sound / noise as much as possible. Use ear plugs, request your family members to be as quiet as possible, use noise canceling headphones, and turn off your phone.
- Family support
You can let your family know about your needs, like not to disturb you when your are sleeping, keeping the noise levels to a bare minimum, and so on. Being social can help to dissipate any effects of loneliness that may come with a night shift.
Night shift can be hard to adjust to, but you can do to it over time by going through the phase in a disciplined way.