sleep foundation
The National Sleep Foundation

Medically Reviewed by

The National Sleep Foundation

Written by

The National Sleep Foundation

Shift work can be challenging at any time of year. It can mean missing out on events, struggling to schedule medical appointments, and fighting your natural circadian rhythm in order to sleep during the day. During the holidays, the desire to participate in your favorite traditions can put you at odds with your need for sleep. Here are three ways to make the most out of the season without sacrificing your health.

Problem: The Kids Are Home When You Need To Sleep

Solution: Rethink Your Sleep Space

Working the third shift might make sense for your family when the kids are in school: You go to work when they go to bed, and you go to sleep when everyone is gone for the day. But holiday vacations can mean extra activity (and noise!) during the hours that you need to sleep.

Consider adjustments that you can make to create a more ideal sleeping environment. Add a white noise machine or earplugs, or even move to another bedroom that provides more solitude. And don’t be shy about reminding your family how important it is for you to sleep. Ask them to find activities outside the house while you get some crucial shuteye.

Problem: You’re Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Solution: Sneak in Some Naps

Most adults need seven to nine hours of shuteye a night to feel their best. With shift work, that can be difficult during the best of times. But around the holidays, fitting in the sleep that you need around events and celebrations can be especially difficult. If you find yourself short on sleep, take a nap before going to work, and, if you can, take short, 15- or 20-minute power naps on any breaks during your shift.

While you’re at it, make the most of the sleep that you are getting by recommitting to basic habits that foster healthy sleep. Avoid caffeine within four or five hours of bedtime, drink plenty of water (and not too much alcohol), and incorporate some moderate exercise when you can.

Problem: Holiday Festivities Are Cutting Into Your Sleep Schedule

Solution: Ask Your Loved Ones to Compromise

Why not create a flexible holiday calendar? After all, Thanksgiving dinner can be just as delicious on a Friday, and there’s no reason that Santa can’t bring presents on the 26th of December. Or do a family breakfast or lunch instead of a big dinner. You might not ask your neighbor to reschedule her cookie party to accommodate your schedule, but don’t hesitate to make a simple switch when it comes to your family’s traditions. Otherwise, you might be yawning through the entire meal!