New York City has earned the designation, “The City that Never Sleeps.” But NYC is not the only town up all night. In practically every community someone can be found on the job even in the wee small hours of the morning. Just because most people head for bed, there are those who have to be up for the “graveyard shift.”
That descriptive phrase has taken on a sense of reality in the light of recent studies. Researchers have found that those who work third shift are more prone to cancer, depression, accidents (on and off the job) and other ailments. One of the primary contributing factors to this list is the lack of sleep -- or at least the lack of “quality” sack time. We are not, by nature, nocturnal; our bodies are designed to pass the night in restful slumber.
So how can “the children of the night” adapt to sleeping during the day? Here are some helpful hints.
1. Talk with your family. Let them know what your sleep hours are and ask them not to intrude on them. You will be asked to take care of errands during the day, “since you’ll be home,” but tell them “No!” if they interfere with the time you’ve set for sleep. How would they have handled the chore if you had been at work during the day?
2. Maintain the same schedule. Once your body develops a sleep-wake rhythm, do your best to keep a regular routine. This might mean sleeping during the day on your days off, but it will be helpful to do so.
3. Get ready for bed. Day-timers have a routine they follow before hitting the sack. Night-workers should do the same. It’s hard to come home from a hard night’s work and go straight to sleep, so develop a plan to unwind. A cup of herbal tea (avoid caffeine!), a warm shower, some light reading.
4. The proper environment. This is sleep-time, not nap-time, so plan on using the bed and not the sofa! Darken the room as much as possible with binds and heavy drapes. If necessary, use a sleep mask to block out even more light. Turn-off your phone (use that voice mail!) and turn down the temperature. And, if you live where outside noises might wake you, use ear plugs or override noises with your own “white noise” (not TV or radio).
So, there you go. Sleep tight. And remember that Ben Franklin’s observation, “Early to bed and early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise” was not intended for the third shift!