Shift Work and Sleep

Home >> Sleep Topics >> Shift Work and Sleep
  • active during breaks (e.g., take a walk, shoot hoops in the parking lot, or even exercise).
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, colas) to help maintain alertness during the shift.
  • Don't leave the most tedious or boring tasks to the end of your shift when you are apt to feel the drowsiest. Night shift workers are most sleepy around 4-5 a.m.
  • Exchange ideas with your colleagues on ways to cope with the problems of shift work. Set up a support group at work so that you can discuss these issues and learn from each other.

For some shift workers, napping is essential. It can be extremely effective at eliminating fatigue-related accidents and injuries and reducing workers compensation costs. Although most employers do not allow napping in the workplace, a ban on napping may soon prove to be a legal liability. Thus, efforts to make workplace policies nap-friendly may soon gain popularity as the issue increases in global significance.

Here are some tips for sleeping during the day:

  • Wear dark glasses to block out the sunlight on your way home.
  • Keep to the same bedtime and wake time schedule, even on weekends.
  • Eliminate noise and light from your sleep environment (use eye masks and ear plugs).
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol; although it may seem to improve sleep initially, tolerance develops quickly and it will soon disturb sleep.


According to NSF's 2005 Sleep in America poll, 14% of Americans do shift work . Compared to their day shift counterparts, shift workers are more likely to suffer from insomnia as well as excessive daytime sleepiness (61% vs. 47% and 30% vs. 18% respectively). Shift workers are also more likely to drive while fatigued and almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel.

Reviewed by:

Christopher Drake, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Drake completed a two-year research fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health, Clinical Psychobiology

Learn about how sleep impacts your health
Powered by National Sleep Foundation