Shift Work Can Cause Sleep Problems, 6 Tips to Help you Fall Asleep Faster

Get help sleeping

Just because you manage to fall asleep each night does not mean you know how to fall asleep effectively. You can use several techniques to help you fall asleep at night and help you become a healthier person.

Shift work is a fact of life 

Shift work is a fact of life for many people and is increasingly common as our 24-hour society evolves. But people who work outside the standard office hours of 9-5 are particularly prone to sleep problems since their work time often overlaps with their natural sleep time.

The standard shifts are 7 am – 3 pm, 3 pm – 11 pm and the night shift 11 pm – 7 am, which encompasses the usual sleep time for individuals. Around 1 in 5 people who work shifts report falling asleep during work. Most shift workers also experience a reduced amount of sleep and poorer quality sleep than those not working shifts.

When you are tired, your ability to concentrate decreases, leading to accidents at work and whilst travelling there and back. It is perilous if the work involves operating machinery where injuries can happen if concentration lapses. Being constantly tired is detrimental to all aspects of a person’s life, including their health and social time, so it’s not just at work that the negative effects show up.

Your body has a 24-hour circadian rhythm that tells you when to sleep and wake up, usually according to the day and night time. Deliberately staying awake all night and then trying to sleep during daylight hours is a difficult adjustment for your body, and it can take a long time to adapt.

Whether you work the same shift or mix different ones, it’s likely that during days off, you will go back to ‘normal’ waking and sleeping times to fit in with friends and family. This makes it even harder to get used to the shift sleeping pattern.

There are a few simple ways people can improve their sleep around whichever shifts they are working, but the most important is to prioritise sleep. It is vital for people’s health and safety that they get enough sleep to function properly, so if you find yourself dropping off at work trying to find a couple more hours each day to rest.

Having people at home to be considerate of your sleep can be a big help too. Ask them to avoid vacuuming, listening to loud music or coming in and out of your bedroom whilst trying to sleep. If you are alone, then turn the phone ringer off, so calls from daytime telemarketers don’t wake you, and get some blackout curtains in the bedroom to simulate nighttime.

Regulate your internal clock

The body’s biological clock reacts to sunlight and darkness much the same way you use your watch to tell the time. Exposure to sunlight early in the morning can actually help you sleep better at night, as studies show that people deprived of sunlight have more trouble sleeping at night and are often more tired than their counterparts who get up and spend some time outdoors in the early morning.

Vectorial illustration of a clock with human hands, representing the circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. In the balanced cycle, a half-circle contains the night and the other one the day.

Change your bed and your pillow

A worn-out bed or pillow will make you uncomfortable when trying to sleep at night. Consider replacing a bed that is more than 5 years old, and replace your pillows at least once every 2 years.

Exercise more to sleep better

Whether you don’t exercise because you’re too tired or you feel that you don’t have time, then chances are you have put yourself in this position precisely because you don’t get enough sleep.

Expert studies in US sports-science facilities have shown that people who vigorously exercise for 20 minutes per day, 4-6 hours before going to bed, are likely to fall asleep more easily than people who either don’t exercise at all or who exercise earlier in the day.

Any type of cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping fast for at least 20 minutes is suitable for better health and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

Manage stress levels to fall asleep faster

We all lead more hectic lifestyles than people used to fifty years ago, so it is becoming almost impossible not to get stressed out. But we can learn to manage stress effectively to help us sleep better and feel healthier.

Reducing the amount of mental stress on the body means you won’t spend hours tossing and turning while you should be sleeping. And in turn, more sleep helps reduce stress levels further.

Watch your diet

There are several ways you can change your diet to help you fall asleep faster. Changing the type of foods you eat – to more of an organic diet – helps you stay away from caffeine and sugar, which prevent you from falling asleep fast.

Changing the way you plan your meals is also thought to make a big difference to the way we fall asleep. Scientists now recommend eating your largest meal in the morning, followed by lighter afternoon and evening meals. This helps to fuel your body during the day when you most need your energy.

Healthy Food
Healthy Organic foods to improve your diet – There are many free apps to help monitor and eat more healthy.

Alternative Sleep Ideas

There’s growing evidence that alternative and complementary therapies can help improve sleep. But how do you know what will work for you and what’s just an old wives tale?

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer since everyone reacts differently to these therapies, but there are patterns, so trial and error is the most likely way to help put your sleep right.

Essential oils have been shown to relieve insomnia and sleep disorders, and we’ve listed a few of the more common ones below:

  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet marjoram
  • Ylang ylang
Essential oils to help you sleep.
Selection of essential oils with various herbs and flowers in the background.

All of these are (generally) non-toxic and non-irritant, so a few drops in your bath before bed or sprinkled under your pillow may aid your sleep. They are primarily useful in relaxation and reducing anxiety, which helps you drop off quicker and hopefully wake up less frequently. You might be amazed that just by making your bedroom smell differently, you may be able to fall asleep more easily.

Massage is another good way of using aromatherapy oils, and it has the added benefit of relaxing muscles. Alas, most of us can’t have a massage before bed every night, but if you are especially stressed or having bad problems sleeping, this technique may be worth a try.

Acupuncture is extremely popular in some parts of the world and becoming more common in the West as an alternative therapy. It involves inserting very fine needles into specific skin points and has a good reputation for helping insomnia.

Meditation involves focusing your attention on one thought or thing and is thought to be extremely effective at quieting the mind and relaxing the body. Meditation techniques can be learnt and are useful if worrying before bed or winding down is a problem.

The stretches and focus on breathing that yoga entails are benefits similar to meditation. It combines exercise and relaxation in a way that many people find improves their sleep.

Alternative therapies are mostly safe to try, and the worst that will happen is not seeing any result. Some people, however, may react to essential oils, or it can affect other medicines used, so always consult your GP before taking a new supplement or trying any of these treatments.

Of course, none of the above can make up for a bed that’s not right, so what not check out our extensive range of mattresses. We make it easy to find the right bed that will let you have sweet dreams all night long. 

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