Hotels have signs for “Do not disturb me” to put on the door. Maybe shift workers need such signs as well, to announce their need for undisturbed sleep. © Colourbox
You probably wonder what we can do about these shift work issues. How can health personnel influence the situations and reduce adverse health effects due to shift work? Health personnel can always give advice, and here you can read about some information to give employers and employees.
If shift work can be avoided, this is clearly the best for your health. If one has to make use of night work, the shift schedule is of importance. It is an advantage to work less than seven nights at a stretch so that the circadian rhythm is not reversed. Changes in our circadian rhythm are strenuous for the body. In rotating shift work schedules, it is better for the workers to change shift type from day to afternoon and then to night, than working shifts in a different order. Overtime combined with shift work should be avoided. Shift plans should be set up in good time and should not be changed. If the employees can participate in the shift work planning, this is shown to give considerable reduction in stress reactions.
Your own situation
Several things can be done by the shift worker herself/himself to cope with the shift work situation:
Ten advices for those who work at night
1. Allow sufficient time for sleep during the day.
2. Make sure your bedroom has dark curtains that keep the daylight out.
3. Avoid being distracted when you should sleep a day. Makes it possible to deactivate the phone. It might be useful to use ear plugs.
4. Avoid the use of sleeping pills.
5. Short night shift periods (less than 7 consecutive nights) are an advantage to avoid sleep problems.
6. One or two “naps” for 5-10 minutes during one night is advantageous to preserve the body’s normal sleep rhythm, and can provide fewer sleep problems. However, this must be compatible with the work situation you have at night.
7. Have regular meals even if working hours are irregular. Avoid snacks during night work.
8. There is an advantage with a big meal at the end of the night, before you go to bed, to retain the body’s normal rhythm.
9. Have some physical exercise daily; for instance a walk outdoors.
10. Know your limits. Even if you have days off after the night shift, this does not mean that you can accomplish just as much as on a regular day off. Let your family get to know this too, and avoid “additional jobs”.
© University of Bergen/Author: B.E. Moen