Positive Sleep Strategies for Shift Workers

Most of us need anywhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to feel rested and recharged for the next day. When we’re busy or stressed, our sleep patterns can change and the amount of sleep we get each night is negatively impacted.

Research suggests that better sleep is linked with higher levels of concentration and performance, and higher levels of wellbeing. Poor sleep has been associated with various symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Strategies for better sleep:

  1. Lie down to go to sleep only when you are actually sleepy. For some people, this means that you will go to bed a lot later than usual.
  2. Do not use your bed for anything except sleeping. Do not read, watch TV, use electronic devices or eat in bed.
  3. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes after turning out the light, get up, go to another room, and do something that is not too arousing (e.g. read a magazine)
  4. If you return to bed and still cannot sleep, repeat rule 3.
  5. If you wake up during the night and cannot go back to sleep, follow rules 3 and 4.
  6. Get up at about the same time every morning, seven days a week, regardless of how long you have slept.

How do I create an environment that helps me sleep?

Sleep loss and fatigue can be issues for shift worker so creating the best environment for success is important.

Daytime sleep is usually lighter, shorter and of lower quality than night-time sleep. It can be disturbed due to warmer temperatures and daytime noise.

Try to implement the following strategies:

• Use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy.
• If your environment is noisy consider using earplugs or white noise to assist.
• Ask those who live with you not to disturb you and to keep noise to a minimum.
• Use blackout blinds, heavy curtains or eye shades to darken the room.
• Keep the bedroom temperature to a comfortable 16-24 degrees.
• Keep your bedroom technology free.

Sleep strategies for shift workers:

• Try using a diary to record your sleep patterns and any challenges you face as this may help you understand when you feel most tired.
• If you work regular shifts, try going to bed at different times e.g. shortly after you get home from work, or stay up for a period and sleep before your next shift to identify what works best for you.
• Try having a short sleep before your first night shift.
• When you are coming off a period of night shifts, have a short sleep and then go to bed earlier that night.
• Once you have identified a sleep schedule that works for you, try to stick with it.


Sunette Opperman

WHS & IMS Manager