Lessons for Working the Night Shift

If you work the night shift, you face unique health and productivity challenges. Many night workers have difficulty falling asleep during the day and staying awake at night.

Knowing what you can do to improve your daytime sleep and your nighttime alertness can help you maintain your efficiency and safety. Answering the following statements true or false will help test your knowledge of working nights.

1. If you work at night, try to maintain the same sleep schedule on the days you work and the days you're off.

2. Making your bedroom as dark as possible can help improve your sleep.

3. Taking a nap before work may increase your alertness.

4. Some over-the-counter pain relievers and other medications have as much caffeine as one or two cups of coffee and can disturb your sleep.

5. Varying your routine by performing different tasks at different times during your shift can help you stay alert.

6. Regular exercise promotes easier and deeper sleep.

7. Bright light and cool temperatures (below 70 degrees) help keep you awake.

8. Stretching or exercising when you take a break can help you stay alert.

9. The most dangerous part of your day is probably your drive home after work.

The answers

Give yourself 10 points for each right answer.

1. True. Reverting fully to a typical day schedule during your time off will make it harder to sleep during the day after you return to work. Instead, stay up late and sleep as late as possible on days off.

2. True. Hang light-blocking curtains or shades on your windows or tape black plastic garbage bags or aluminum foil on the glass. Wear an eye mask if your bedroom is still light.

3. True. Daytime sleep often lasts only four or five hours, so it may help to take a 20- to 30-minute nap in the evening before beginning a night shift.

4. True. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of your medications could disturb your sleep.

5. True.

6. True. Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise most days of the week will help you sleep better and deeper because working out helps reduce mental and physical stress.

7. True.

8. True. Physical activity triggers your nervous system and helps keep you alert.

9. True. To help prevent accidents, vary your route and drive with another worker, which will keep you alert. Call a cab, a friend or a relative for a ride if you're feeling particularly exhausted.

Evaluate your score

60 to 90 points. You know quite a bit about working the night shift.

30 to 50 points. You know a little about working nights. Reading a book or talking to co-workers about effective coping strategies can help you learn more.

0 to 20 points. You don't know very much about working at night. Ask your supervisor for help adjusting to this shift.

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