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How to Cope With Rotating Shift Work

While most people are sound asleep, thousands of others are on the job in factories, power plants, hospitals and other businesses that can’t shut down overnight.

Some of these jobs require rotating shifts, in which employees work a different time frame each week and take turns sharing the burden of night work. Shift work comes with some unique problems, and difficulty sleeping is just one of them.


Things You’ll Need

  • Answering machine
  • Earplugs
  • Fan
  • Window coverings

5 Steps to Cope With Rotating Shift Work

Rotating Shift Work

1. Create a sleep routine for each shift, and do not deviate from it unless absolutely necessary.

Avoid napping, although it can be very tempting. Try to ease into each schedule change, rather than switching abruptly from day to night and vice versa.


2. Make your bedroom a cool, dark and quiet place.

Heavy drapes, shades or blinds can keep sunlight from waking you up, and air conditioning is advisable if you find it hard to sleep in a hot room. Run a small fan to create “white noise” that drowns out daytime sounds like lawn mowers or traffic; otherwise, wear earplugs. Turn off the ringer on your phone and let voicemail or the answering machine pick up.


3. Avoid taking sleeping pills and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol before bed.

Alcohol can disrupt sleep, and sleeping pills can leave you feeling groggy for hours after you wake up. Also drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks sparingly, and not within 9 or 10 hours before bedtime.


4. Eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Rotating shift work can be physically stressful, and a good diet helps keep you healthy. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can also make you feel better when you are lacking sleep.


5. Ask your family and friends to respect your sleep needs and to be as accommodating as they can.

Rotating shift work can cause difficulties in relationships, particularly because certain shifts conflict with the possibility of spending time together.

If you don’t see your loved ones most of the week because you’re working the second shift, call during a break if you can, and do something fun together as soon as you have a night or weekend day off.

People often find that the third shift the most difficult as far as sleep patterns, but it at least provides the opportunity to spend time in the evening with people who are on a day schedule.


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