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Adjusting to Third Shift Hours

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Authored by Tanya Nusser in Careers and Employment
Published on 09-05-2009

Working the graveyard shift, or third shift, can take some getting used to. Our bodies get so used to sleeping when it’s dark, that it is a major adjustment to stay awake all night and sleep during the day. Working the third shift also affects the employee’s eating habits, exercise and social life. So, is there any way to make the transition to third shift any easier?

While third shift work is not ideal to most people, there are ways of making the transition from daytime working hours to nighttime hours. The biggest rule of thumb to surviving graveyard shifts is to establish a new bedtime and sleeping pattern as soon as possible. Yes, it is tempting to go on about our day once work has finished and sleep only after exhaustion has set in. But doing this for too long can have dire consequences on your body.

Eat dinner before bed. It is tempting to just skip out on the last meal before bed, but this can only hinder our sleep. Find a good time to eat a nutritious meal before heading to bed for the day. Be sure not to eat too many carbs or junk food right before bed as these foods can cause poor digestion and could keep you awake for hours.

It is also a good idea to avoid nicotine and caffeine for a few hours before you plan to go to sleep. These are both stimulants and have known effects of keeping people from getting the sleep they need. Switching to decaffeinated coffee, tea and sodas and cutting out cigarettes all together can greatly increase your chances of getting the full amount of rest your body needs.

Decide on an ideal bed time during the day that will allow for at least eight hours of uninterrupted rest without you having to feel rushed or hurried to get your sleep in. For some people, this can be as soon as they get home from work. Others will need to wind down for a few hours before succumbing to their beds. The key is to go to bed at the same time every day in order to train your body of its new sleeping schedule.

If your body is not cooperating with the new sleeping schedule the way it needs to, it may be because you are having trouble adjusting to sleeping in the daylight rather than when it is dark outside. Creating artificial darkness can help with this. Hang darkening shades or even a blanket over your window so as not to allow light to come in. Try shutting your bedroom door to avoid light from the rest of the house. Even using a sleeping mask can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

Working the third shift will take some adjustments, but if you listen to your body and make the adjustments it needs to function properly, you can avoid the negative effects that working over nights can do to your body.

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