Burning the Midnight Oil – Nightshift Workers
For most people, a typical day of work begins when the sun comes up and ends when it goes back down again – the darkness of night triggers the body’s natural circadian rhythm, our internal body clock which regulates the sleep/wake cycle of every person on earth.
However, there are those who invert the norm and spend their days sleeping, whilst at night they drive our public transport, serve us our fast food and tend to us in our hospital beds.
These are the nightshift workers.
But how do they sleep? Labouring during antisocial hours requires a radically different sleep routine compared with your average 9-5 worker, which is all the more important given that at least 3 million Britons are now working nights – equivalent to a not insignificant one eighth of the total UK workforce.
Charmane Eastman, PhD, a professor and researcher at the Biological Rhythms Research Lab at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, comments that “within about a week, permanent night-shift workers can reset their body clock so they feel sleepy at the right time of their day”.
Modifying one’s body clock is essential to obtaining that much-needed rest, and crucial to resetting the circadian rhythm is simulating daylight during working hours. Accordingly, Eastman suggests investing in a light-therapy box (could do link to on-site products here??) in order to mimic the revitalising effect of natural sunlight.
When it’s eventually time to head home, night shift workers should seek to avoid bright light and don a pair of dark shades (preferably designed to reduce blue light).
Then, just before that sleepy head hits the pillow at about 8am, it might be wise, advises Eastman, to darken the bedroom with blackout curtains and turn on a white noise generator to help drown out ambient sounds.
Finally, rise-and-shine time should occur between 3 and 4pm, which ideally includes at least 15 minutes of exposure to sun (in order to trick the circadian clock into thinking it’s morning).
So, although working nights does essentially involve deceiving your own body, don’t feel too bad: it’ll thank you for it in the long run.