I may not be superman, but I am like him in many ways. I often work under the cover of darkness. I too live a double life. And after three weeks of nightshift, I don’t know whether I’m supposed to put my pants on first or second either.
So what toll is all this playing on my health, and what can I do to help myself from my kryptonite – nightshifts….
Working nights interrupts your body’s natural sleep patterns in the same way that jet lag does. It can have negative effects on your health and the way you feel and perform. Therefore it is important if you work night shifts to take good care of your body.
So Rig Baby has put together a list of the Top 5 tips for surviving the nights and the limiting the negative effects that it can have on your body and mind.
1. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks before sleep
Now this may seem obvious but you probably don’t realises just how long before bed this actually should be. Studies have shown that caffeine can affect your ability to sleep for up to six hours after consumption. So if you cant give up your favourite drink altogether try switching to decaffeinated tea or coffee. And remember fizzy juice and chocolate also contain significant amounts of caffeine. In fact, some bars of chocolate contain as much as 70mg, more than a cup of tea!
2. Do Something Relaxing Before Bed
Although many find exercise a good way to unwind, it does not necessarily translate to a good nights sleep. Exercise too close to bed time can actually make you body feel too awake to sleep. Try to leave at least an hour after activity before climbing under the covers.
If watching tv, try to watch something relaxing. If you find an active mind is stopping you from sleeping, try putting a note pad next to your bed so you can note down anything that’s on your mind and deal with it in the morning.
Try having a hot shower and reading a book, and keep your bedtime routine the same each night. That way your mind will recognise sleep that sleep is on its way!
3. Keep your Room Cool and Dark
Your body temperature dips slightly when you are sleeping. Wear an eye mask if your room is not dark enough.
4. Buy a Light Box
You may find it useful to use an alarm to waken you with a built in light box. This mimics natural daylight, which would normally provide a cue for your body to waken.
If you think you may be suffering from the effects of SAD a light box may help to alleviate symptoms and be purchased online or in the leading high-street chemist.
5. Up Your Intake of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is produced by your body when sunlight contacts your skin. It is used by your body to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate, both of which are required for healthy teeth and bones. If you are working nights, there may be times when your exposure to natural sun light is extremely limited. A deficiency in vitamin D can also affect your moods, often leaving you feeling drained and a bit down.
Although most of our vitamin D requirements will normally come from sunlight exposure, you can get small amounts from food.
Foods which contain vitamin D include:
- Oil fish, such as salmon or mackerel
- Fortified vitamin drinks, yoghurt or fat spreads
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin D supplements can also be purchased from most supermarkets and health stores and may be useful to take offshore when you are working nights.