Healthcare professionals—especially those working overnight or graveyard shifts face several sleeping obstacles. Long hours, frequently changing work schedules, and stress are just a few challenges those in the healthcare profession face when it comes to sleep. So, if you’re setting aside seven to nine hours a night to sleep—congratulations! You’re doing one of the best things you can to give your entire body what it needs to restore and remain healthy. But even if you’re getting your seven to nine, are you truly getting the deep sleep your body needs? Believe it or not, there may be some simple (yet fixable) factors that may be causing you to miss out on the restorative sleep you need. Here are some elements and strategies to consider:
- There’s too much light on. Light is one of the biggest external factors that can affect sleep. Exposure to light in the late evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and lead us to prefer later sleep times.Try: Keeping your bedroom as dark as possible and avoid TV and electronics close to bedtime.
- You don’t have a regular bedtime. Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep and wake cycle (your circadian rhythm) is paramount for achieving good sleep. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times (i.e., going to bed very late and sleeping in one day, and then going to bed early and waking up early the next). Try: Staying consistent, even on the weekends. If you want to change your bedtime or if your shift changes, start with small increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day—this will help your body adjust.
- You’re worried when you go to sleep. Stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. Try: Setting aside “worry time” before you go to bed. Write down the thoughts and feelings that are bugging you, and then make a promise to only revisit them until the next day.
- You snore. Chronic snoring can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Try: Exercising every day, and losing a little bit of weight if you’re overweight—even a little weight loss can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease or even stop snoring.
“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.”