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How to Regulate Sleep for Shift-Work

Our nonstop, 24-hour society requires that some people work during nonstandard times (in the evenings or during the night). This is a difficult burden for people, especially if they have families. Sleep scientists have done considerable research on how to maintain performance at a shift job while reducing potential harm.

There are no easy answers or quick solutions, unfortunately. To minimize the impact from schedule shifts, the following are universal recommendations:

  • Maintain the same schedule each day to minimize the impact of short-term transitions. This means that the weekend schedule should be the same as that of a normal workday. In other words, sleep at the same time every day of the week.
  • Use bright lights at work.
  • Maintain low light levels during normal daylight hours. Wear sunglasses outdoors during daylight hours. Keep your home environment as dark and quiet as is practical.

People who do shift work are at higher risk of developing insomnia. This can happen while on a shift work schedule or after returning to a conventional schedule.