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The circadian rhythm is the internal clock that affects bodily functions and controls sleeping and waking cycles. Working a night shift forces you to alter your circadian rhythms and can throw your schedule and health into disarray. People who work the third shift can suffer from a variety of exhaustion-related ailments known as shift work sleep disorder. However, by managing your schedule and making healthy choices, you can avoid exhaustion at work.
Shift Work Disorder
Shift work sleep disorder causes insomnia, lethargy, difficulty concentrating and headaches. People who work the night shift are forced to work against their natural circadian rhythms, and without a concentrated effort to sleep on a regular schedule, they can suffer from this disorder. Shift work sleep disorder poses numerous health risks such as increased risk of accidents, irritability and mood swings and errors at work. Doctors may prescribe sleeping medication to help sufferers sleep, and the disorder can be effectively treated by lifestyle changes that ensure adequate sleep.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Shift workers should adjust their sleeping schedule so that their sleeping is scaled to their waking hours. A worker who works until midnight, for example, might go to bed at 3 a.m. and sleep until 10 a.m. You must sleep a minimum of six to eight hours a day. Many shift workers go to bed immediately after their shift. However, this approach is a departure from the norm of staying awake for a few hours before going to bed. Try coming home after your shift, eating dinner and then going to bed rather than immediately crashing from exhaustion. This can help train your body to sleep in a way that mimics normal circadian rhythms. If you sleep during the day, turn off the lights and put dark drapes over the window. Talk to your doctor about prescription sleep aids if you suffer from insomnia. Used on a short-term basis, these medications can help train your body to sleep during daylight hours.
While caffeine can help you stay awake, it can also interfere with your ability to fall asleep. According to the Cleveland Clinic, wakefulness-promoting medications can be effective, so talk to your doctor if you struggle with exhaustion. However, the most effective remedy for shift work sleep disorder is adequate sleep and a healthy lifestyle. Try getting up an hour or two before your shift to allow your body time to wake up rather than going straight from sleeping to work.
Exercise and Nutrition
Exercise and nutrition play a vital role in energy. Exercise releases endorphins that can help you feel more awake. Try exercising before your shift to increase your energy. Good nutrition can also help. Take time to eat a health breakfast and eat an energy-producing snack such as nuts or trail mix if you feel exhausted halfway through your shift. Replace sugary drinks with water. Sugar can give you a short energy rush, but frequently results in a crash that can be especially debilitating for night shift workers.