Sleep, shift work and energy

Sleep and Performance

Most adults need around seven to nine hours of good sleep every day, but about 50 per cent of people in the UK sleep for less than six hours every 24 hours. Over time this can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes five times and also makes it more difficult to learn and remember new things the next day. Shift work in particular can disrupt your sleeping patterns and it can be hard to keep readjusting to sleeping at different times of the day.

Not getting enough sleep may also lead to increased risk of fatigue which can, in turn, increase the potential of safety risks within the workplace and lead to errors and accidents, ill-health and injury, and reduced productivity.

Preventing Fatigue at Work

Lack of sleep can leave you feeling drained of energy. Work on the following areas if you are looking to maintain higher energy levels whilst you’re awake:

  • Eat Well: A healthy diet with regular meal times will give you stable energy levels. For best energy eat 3-4 equal sized meals, reduce your sugar intake and limit your caffeine to three drinks a day. Also make sure you’re staying hydrated; adults on average need between 6-8 glasses per day.
  • Move Well: Doing just 20 minutes of light exercise a day can reduce feelings of fatigue by 65%, why not go for a short walk in your break. Exercise can provide an instant energy boost, lower stress hormones and help you relax. This in turn can also help with getting more restful sleep.
  • Manage Pressure well: A build up of pressure can drain our energy levels. Tips to manage pressure include talking to others, socialising regularly, doing something you enjoy and doing something relaxing. You can also find more information on this by clicking here.
Shift Work

Shift work can make it more difficult to get enough good quality sleep, but there are things you can do to help with this. If you struggle to get enough sleep when working shifts try to address the following areas:

  • Environment: We sleep best when it’s dark and cool. You can do this by having blackout curtains and by keeping your room between 15-18 degrees. It’s also important to find a bed that is comfortable and supportive. The environment we’re in when working a night shift can also help us stay awake, if you’re doing a night shift try to expose yourself to bright light to promote alertness.
  • Choices whilst awake: Whether you’re awake during the day or night, the choices we make during this time can affect our ability to sleep. Try to avoid caffeine 5 hours before sleep, do some light activity 2-3 hours before bed and avoid a large meal or extra fluid close to bedtime.
  • Sleep Routine: When working shifts it can be difficult to establish a sleep routine however try to have a regular sleep-wake cycle as much as possible. Things that you may want to get into the habit of doing include having a warm shower or bath 30 minutes before bed, staying out of your room until you feel sleepy and avoiding using TV, laptops, tablets and phones 30 minutes before bed. When working a night shift try to avoid bright lights or running errands on your way home.

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