According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shift work and a lack of sleep due to long shifts can cause a serious health burden. Shift work sleep disorders (SWSD) contribute to the development or exacerbation of various co-morbid conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, GI disorders, and depression. It can affect your work performance and quality of life.

Nurses are particularly at risk for SWSD, which can cause physiological and psychological distress and lead to errors in their work. Thus, it is important that nurses are aware of this risk and focus on their sleep hygiene. Here are 7 tips to prevent SWSD and promote your sleep hygiene.

1. Avoid consecutive shifts longer than 12 hours and avoid working an extensive amount of overtime.

After night shifts, it is recommended that you have at least 48 hours off so that your body can recover. When you have a day or two off from work, it is good idea to catch up on rest.

2. Establish a regular sleep schedule.

This will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

3. Create a sleep-inviting environment for restorative sleep.

Keep your room a cool temperature (between 60-67 degrees), which can help aid the process of cooling your body. Keeping your bedroom dark and quiet can help promote your sleepiness.

4. Avoid large meals, spicy foods, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other substances that interfere with sleep at least 4 hours before bedtime.

Also try to limit the amount of caffeine you drink during the day.

5. Reduce screen time.

Light, noise, and content from televisions, smartphones, and tablets are stimulating and can cause difficulty falling asleep.

6. Avoid exercise before bedtime.

Exercising before bedtime can cause difficulty falling asleep.

7. Avoid stressful and stimulating activities, such as doing work or discussing emotional or serious issues, before bedtime.

Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. Reducing stress and unwinding from the day can help you fall asleep faster and achieve a better quality of sleep.

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is an experienced researcher in health promotion and project director of a non-profit health and wellness program.
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