Shift Workers’ Sleep Plan for Days Off


This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

About 15 percent  of Americans are shift workers, including firefighters, nurses, pilots, and food professionals. If you work nontraditional hours, you know how important it is to figure out a successful sleep schedule so you feel energized when you’re on the job. Equally important: learning the best way to maximize your sleep on the days you have off. It’s tempting to switch back to traditional sleep hours on days when you don’t have to work, but you’ll benefit most from sticking with your routine. These steps can help you do it.


Gather Support

Shift workers may feel awkward having to sleep during the day while the rest of the family is having fun, but adhering to the same sleep schedule, even when you don’t have to work, is important for your body clock to stay in sync.  Don’t try to go it alone. Post your unique schedule somewhere your kids and your spouse can see it (like the refrigerator door) and ask for their help while you sleep. Your family can assist by keeping noise and interruptions to a minimum and pitching in with housework and other chores during the day.


Bundle Your Shifts

Switching back and forth between day and night shifts during the week  can make adhering to a sleep schedule difficult. Find out whether your employer can schedule you to work either one or the other so you won’t have to toggle. Not only does making positive adjustments like this help with your health and well-being, but also it increases workplace productivity and safety.  You’ll also enjoy better sleep if you can limit the number of night shifts you work in a row and schedule some days off in between.


Know Your Numbers

Getting enough sleep is just as important for shift workers as it is for those who adhere to a more typical office routine.  And because it can be challenging racking up the hours for those working during the night, it’s all the more important that on days off, sleep becomes a priority. Keep in mind that recommended sleep hours for adults are seven to nine hours of sleep every day.


Block the Light

Your sleep efforts on days off will be more successful if you can eliminate outside light from entering your room. The darkness sends signals to your brain that it’s time for bed. Heavy curtains or blinds are smart choices, as is an eye mask. And consider earplugs if you are trying to sleep on weekends or other days off when family members are at home.


Set a Bedtime

As diligent as you are with your bedtime during work nights, you’ll want to be equally vigilant with your sleep schedule on days off.  Try not to deviate more than a few minutes from your usual times for tucking in and getting up in order to keep your body clock on schedule.


Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

Staying consistent with your sleep routine on days off means eating foods or beverages that won’t interfere with the bedtime hour you are used to. Caffeinated drinks in the hours before bed or having a nightcap could affect your sleep. Although alcohol may help you to fall asleep quickly, it can also cause you to wake up and have trouble returning to sleep.