According the W.H.O shift work is a probable carcinogen.
This is serious stuff. We have to have a paradigm shift about the importance of sleep and take it upon ourselves to make every effort to get better sleep. It’s time to stop using our work schedule as an excuse to not get enough sleep.
15-20% of the US work force is shift workers.
Sleep in a necessity, not a commodity.
Here are some interesting things I have learned about sleep:
Lack of sleep in linked to overeating. Ghrelin (hunger hormone) and leptin (fullness hormone) are both effected by lack of sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our Ghrelin levels are spiked and we feel increased hunger, and leptin levels fall which leads to overeating.
Losing weight will help you sleep better.
Why do we feel sleepy? Adenosine. Who knew!!
Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter…it is a CNS depressant and inhibits many processes related to wakefulness. It builds throughout the day. The longer you are awake, the more it builds and the sleepier you will become. This high level of adenine is the cause of sleep pressure, which is what helps you fall asleep. Once you fall asleep, the levels decrease. Caffeine works to inhibit sleep by blocking the action of adenosine with in the brain.
Melatonin is the darkness hormone and is secreted by your pineal gland. Sunset is generally the start of melatonin secretion, and it stops secretion at sunrise which causes you to wake up. It is a key player in our circadian rhythm. Melatonin decreases as we age.
Our circadian rhythms is responsible for some of the following body processes…sleep and wakefulness. Metabolism. Core body temp. Cortisol and melatonin levels and other hormones like growth and thyroid hormones. Every organ and every cell in our body has it’s own unique circadian rhythm.
As shift workers we have disrupted circadian rhythms. This negatively affects us in many ways.
Lack of sleep prevents our brains from making new memories and we build up toxic levels of beta amyloid in our brain which is contributor to Alzheimer’s.
Being awake for greater than 16 hours will start to show sings of mental and physiological deterioration, we are as deficient as someone who is legally intoxicated. We need 8 hours of sleep to repair the damage of wakefulness.
But, HOW do I sleep with this crazy work schedule?
- Commit to making Sleep a priority. Stop wearing your lack of sleep as a badge of honor or importance.
- Plan. Don’t make plans for things when you should be sleeping. Yeah, I’m talking to you…don’t make dentist appointments for the kids when you should be sleeping. Don’t schedule meetings for when you should be sleeping. Stop it. Right now. Just like I tell clients to plan their food, plan their exercise…you gotta plan your sleep. Make an appointment with your self to go to sleep. Put it in your calendar. If you happen to get rest at work on the night shift and don’t need to sleep all day then, consider it a bonus day. Get caught up on things around the house, or whatever.
- Transform your bedroom to an area for sleep and sex only. No TV, iPad, or phone. Room darkening shades, white or pink (steady rain, wind and the heartbeat are examples) noise maker, a comfortable bed, good pillows and high quality sheets.
- Invest in a nice dark eye mask and good ear plugs.
- Cool rooms temp (~65 degrees F is best), a sign on your door to let everyone know you are sleeping.
- Get your family/roommates on board and explain to them how important it is for you to get sleep.
- Limit your caffeine. Avoid caffeine 12-14 hours before you plan to sleep. Even though you may be able to fall asleep shortly after you consume caffeine, it’s half life is 6 hours…and it’s 1/4 life is 12 hours so it will still be in your system when you go to sleep. Caffeine will reduce your deep sleep by up to 20%. Caffeine hits the mute button on adeonosine, which we need to help build sleep pressure.
- Skip the Wine-Down, or Breakfast Bloody Mary. Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycles. It blocks REM sleep and shortens it as the night progress and the alcohol is metabolized. Your brain will naturally try to make up for the lost REM sleep, resulting in you not feeling rested upon waking. When you drink, you are taking away the benefits of sleep.
- Exercise is a great way to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. As you exercise more regularly, you will sleep better and when you sleep better you will feel more energized to exercise more. Avoid exercise 2-4 hours before bed.
- Prep your phone for sleep. If you do have your phone in the bedroom, make sure it is in “Dark Mode” or “Night Shift” to limit the blue light. Blue light from phones will interfere with melatonin production. Even 1 hour of blue light exposure before sleep will reduce melatonin production by 50% and delay the spike of it for 3 hours. Turn off all notifications. Put phone in do not disturb mode. Calls will come though from your favorites list if they call twice with in 3 min in case of an emergency. Remember to talk to your kids/family/friends about calling twice to get a hold of you.
Create a pre-sleep routine…wether you are on days or nights, this is a form of auto-suggesting and will help tell your brain and body that it is time for sleep. It is recommended that you start this 1 hour before bedtime.
- No devices. The blue light disrupts the production and release of melatonin.
- Melatonin supplements should be taken 45-90 min before bed time. Start with low does of melatonin. This will take time to figure out. I like Doc Parsley’s sleep remedy or Bullet Proofs sleep remedy. Stay away from OTC sleep aids, they induce a more sedative state and prevent restorative sleep activity.
- Sleep promoting herbal teas are also a nice option to try.
- Journal for 2 min to get the ruminating thoughts out of your head and on paper.
- Take a hot bath. This is beneficial b/c it will help drop your body temp by 2-3 degrees which will initiate sleep and help maintain your sleep.
- Guided Meditation to help you fall asleep.
Protecting and prioritizing your sleep is critical.
Make a great effort to optimize your sleep when you can, especially when you are at home.
The only solution to sleep deprivation and fatigue is sleep.
I realize that some of these tips may not be useful to everyone. Pick a few things to focus on and see what your results are.
When I coach my clients around sleep, we spend time figuring out what all of their obstacles to getting good sleep are, then come up with strategies and a pre-sleep routine that will work for them.
Creating the plan is EASY….following the plan…well, that’s what we coach on in our session!
Now go, get some sleep!
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