Way back in 2011 I said that it was high time we took sleep issues related to shift work more seriously.
Not only are shift workers more likely to have a workplace accident, they may even be losing brain cells.
A more recent study has found that shift workers are 9% more likely to develop diabetes compared to those with regular work patterns.
Researchers found that male shift workers were 28% more likely to develop diabetes compared to female shift workers, and that those who work rotating shifts were 42% more likely to develop diabetes compared to those with regular work patterns.
It's thought that about 15 million Americans are shift workers - so if you're one of them (and struggling with sleep), what should you do?
Medication certainly isn't the answer.
A study out of Finland looked at data from 15 trials involving over 700 individuals.
Researchers found that although there was a small improvement in alertness when shift workers took a nap and drank caffeine before a night shift (and slightly better sleep when they took melatonin during the day), researchers found very little evidence to suggest that drugs were effective at improving the sleep of shift workers.
A better alternative is observing good sleep hygiene (I go through this in more detail in my free sleep training course) and observing the following tips:
- Try to maintain a steady sleep-wake schedule throughout the week (including days off),
- Limit interruptions during the times you set aside for sleep,
- Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible,
- If you work rotating shifts, try to have them rotate in a clockwise direction - for example, work days, then evenings, then nights,
- Try to remain in bright light from the start of your shift until 2 hours before your shift ends,
- If safe, consider wearing sunglasses for your commute home to minimize your light exposure before going to bed.
Last updated: November 14, 2014