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5 tips on how to recover from night shifts

Recovering from a night shift has many components, both physical and social...

Establish a good sleeping environment

Absolutely the most important aspect of any recovery from a nightshift and the first thing any shift worker will mention: sleep. The ease in which someone can establish a good routine, the better their recovery from nightshifts will be. Creating an environment which is conducive to sleep is essential. Trying to keep the sleeping area as quiet as possible and at a comfortable temperature is important, yet sometimes difficult to achieve due to the natural noise and interruptions the day brings. Family members or housemates can help with this, as can making neighbours aware.  Blackout curtains will prove invaluable in these efforts, as well as things such as low-level music, ambient sounds or earplugs.   

Manage your social life

While recovering from a night shift has many physical components, there are also sociological implications that need to be addressed, such as trying to invest in an active, engaging and supportive social life. This can help greatly to dispel the feelings of isolation that can sometimes accompany working at times when others aren’t. Letting friends and relatives know when you are free and what times of day it is best to call or visit will help, as will looking ahead at any rotas and applying a bit of planning to social activities. Recognising that you need time for your body to physically recover from a night shift is also important. Racing from a nightshift straight to a big social event or night out is probably unwise. It’s important to keep in mind that working night shifts is not entirely detrimental to an active social life, and can bring with it many opportunities day working may not in terms of activities and events it may be possible to attend as well as hobbies that can be developed.

Develop a ‘pre-bed’ routine

While the temptation may be to arrive home and take part in usual evening activities – watching a film or reading for instance – avoiding the temptation to do this can be highly beneficial. The longer you delay going to bed the more awake you will become, which will impact significantly on any attempts to sleep. Eating or drinking may be necessary, but caution should be exercised here too, as any caffeine related drinks will inevitably have a negative effect on sleep, as will alcohol. It is best to develop a routine in which you try to sleep as quickly as possible, avoiding any activity you would regard as stimulating, in order to obtain the deepest sleep possible.

Begin to recover before you arrive home

Whilst relaxing in a busy work environment is fairly impossible, there are steps that can be taken to begin the process of nightshift recovery before the shift actually ends. Avoiding coffee, tea, and any other food or drink that provides stimulation can help. As it takes a while for any stimulants to have any impact, it may be that the benefits won’t ‘kick in’ until you arrive home. Giving yourself a set time at work after which you stop consuming these items is a good idea.  The commute home can also prove valuable in terms of disengaging and contemplating. This time can be used to wind down, create some distance from any work stresses or worry and reach a more relaxed state of mind, meaning that when arriving home, going to bed immediately is achievable.

Timing your sleep

While there are many different sleep times used by nightshift workers, what works for one may not be suitable for all, it can be a bad idea to have a full night’s sleep after the last night shift of a current rota pattern. Going to sleep as usual, but just for a few hours and getting up around midday can be useful. This will mean that even though you may have had only a few hours’ sleep, and may be tired for that day, you should be able to sleep in the evening of the same day. This can be useful in making the first step to ‘resetting’ your body clock to adjust to a more usual day and night routine. Spending the day in a light environment, engaging in daytime activity should work well in refreshing your body