The need for sleep and sleep are always individual. A sign of normal sleep can be considered the awakening experienced after waking up and the fact that fatigue does not limit the day’s activities. In adults, a sufficient amount of sleep is usually 5 to 10 hours a day. A few percent of our population is congenitally short or long sleepers. Of these, those who need little sleep can do with 4-5 hours, while those who sleep for a long time need 9-10 hours.
Sleep consists of NREM sleep or orthodox sleep and REM sleep or paradoxical dream. A healthy adult sleeps a quarter of REM sleep and the rest of NREM sleep. During a normal sleep period, the different stages of sleep follow each other and form so-called sleep cycles.
Changes in sleep-wake rhythm in shift work
Changes in sleep and sleep-wake rhythms associated with shift work can adversely affect social life, and irregular work puts more strain on the body than usual. Doing shift work shortens normal sleep and thus accumulates sleep deprivation. Almost all shift workers sometimes experience short-term insomnia. As many as a quarter of shift workers constantly find themselves sleepy or tired.
In different shifts, the sleep-wake rhythm changes in different ways. It is easier for more people to delay than to advance their sleep-wake rhythm. Among other things, early morning shifts require that the sleep-wake rhythm be brought forward, this predisposes to difficulty falling asleep and intermittent night sleep.
Adapting to evening shifts is usually easier, sleeping after evening shifts is of pretty good quality. However, with late evening shifts, the sleep rhythm is clearly delayed because after the evening shift, time is needed to calm down and falling asleep is delayed. This is why evening-morning combinations are problematic.
As a result of the night shift, the sleep-wake rhythm is clearly delayed. Adaptation is difficult in practice because, especially when sunlight comes out and a person is going home from a night shift, it tends to synchronize the night worker back to the rhythm of the day. In continuous night work, the problem is usually the free period after night shifts. In this case, the employee usually returns to the day rhythm, which in turn slows down the return to the night rhythm. The day-oriented circadian rhythm of society and the surrounding area does not promote adaptation to night shifts.
Work shift solutions:
At their best, good working time solutions support the well-being of staff and the functioning of the work community. Ergonomic shift planning and through this, the staff’s ability to influence their own shifts also increases the well-being of the staff. Ergonomic work shift planning is generally the recommended work shift planning model. Here is an example of an ergonomic shift plan:
- Predictability of shifts is important
- Fast forward system (morning-evening-night-free)
- 8-10 hour shifts
- 10-12 hours free between shifts
- The maximum number of consecutive working days is 5-7
- The maximum number of consecutive working days is 5-7
- Minimum consecutive evening shifts (maximum three)
- Minimal consecutive night shifts, preferably 1-3
- Uniform periods of leave, including weekends. Avoid individual holidays.
SHIFT WORKER TIPS FOR A BETTER SLEEP
Rhythm of sleep and other life:
- Tell your loved ones about your work and sleeping times
- Allow enough time for sleeping
- Daytime sleep is often necessary. Especially if the sleep period has been too short (evening morning) due to working hours or if there’s a sleep deprivation.
Factors contributing to sleep:
- Calm down to your liking 1-2 hours before going to bed
- Pleasant exercise 2-4 hours before going to bed
- Sauna, hot shower or bath helps to relax
- Light food
- Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol for five hours before bedtime
- Avoid smoking before going to bed
- Do not go to bed until you are sleepy
- When you wake up, get out of bed right away, don’t spend time there
- The bedroom must be cool and as dark as possible
- Clean, comfortable bedding and a good mattress
- The bedroom is a timeless zone! Also leave the phone, computer / tablet out of the bedroom if possible.
- The bedroom should also be a carefree area, take a moment to worry well in advance of bedtime
- In shift work, eating right is crucial, as there is a risk of gaining weight in shift work.
- A regular eating rhythm should be followed, following it is a challenge for the shift worker.
- The diet should be varied and colorful and heart-friendly.
- Heavy meals are tiring but also too little eating during the night shift may affect the sleep quality of the main sleep period after the night shift.
- Ensure adequate drinking. Drinking in the morning and night shifts should be reduced so that the sleep period is not interrupted by going to the toilet.
- Drinking cold drinks or sucking on a piece of ice and eating lightly may help fight fatigue.
- Caffeinated beverages should be avoided after the early evening and night shifts, as this can significantly affect sleep quality and length.
What if you don’t fall asleep?
- Stay calm.
- Get out of bed, start listening soothing music or read a good book.
- Do not go to bed until you are sleepy again.
- With age, the ability to adapt to shift work decreases and sleep disorders occur more often than in young shift workers.
Do you suffer from insomnia?
- Transient insomnia on single nights is very common.
- Don’t be afraid of insomnia -> If you try to force yourself to sleep, it will be even harder to get sleep.
- Always get out of bed at regular intervals in the morning, no matter how much you have slept.
- If insomnia persists for 1 month>, contact a health center / occupational health service
Tips for a night shift:
- Before the first night shift, take a 1-2 hour nap.
- Eat light at night, avoid heavy drinks in the morning.
- Exposure to bright artificial light at night (23:00 to 05:00) speeds up the adjustment to the night shift rhythm if there are more than three consecutive night shifts.
- When coming home from a night shift, wear sunglasses.
- Go to bed immediately after the night shift.
- Explain to family and acquaintances when and why you need to sleep during the day