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How to cope with sleep deprivation if you work night shifts

Sleep deprivation

Working night shifts can cause sleep deprivation. Night shifts have become an existential reality after globalization and boom in the outsourcing industry. Before web-based globalization, night shifts used to be a rarity mostly among media persons, law enforcement agencies and other such occupations. Many offices and institutions work 24 x 7 and it means if you are employed at one of such places, you have to put in night shifts when your turn comes. The greatest casualty of working night shifts is your sleep.

Over thousands of years of evolution, our brain and our bodies are conditioned to sleep during night. The darkness in the nature puts our bodies in the sleep mode. Of course modern lifestyle has begun to change this pattern, but overall, the information embedded inside of our genes nudges us to go to bed after dark. What happens if you cannot? You experience sleep deprivation.

This is because while you try to sleep during the day, the rest of the world is full of activity. The nature is active, most of the animals around you are awake, and so are the people. Even if you live alone, your neighborhood is buzzing with activity. Even while fast asleep, your brain is constantly processing noises and activities happening around you. There is no silence, the sort of silence that manifests during night. Kids might be playing outside. Various delivery boys and girls may ring your bell. There might be hawkers on the road. Either in front of you, or somewhere in the distance, vehicles are constantly honking or screeching to a halt, or the drivers are screaming at each other. Thousands of conversations are taking place. Construction work is going on. Someone is playing music. The point is, the ideal condition that you get during night, you don’t get during day. This causes sleep deprivation without you even realizing it.

According to this HiveHealthMedia.com article:

According to Health24, a health and lifestyle website based in South Africa, call center jobs are one of the most taxing jobs in the world, and that 20% of their personnel have difficulties in dealing with the stress they absorb at work. Sleep deprivation is considered one of the major factors affecting agents to suffer from erratic moods, mental inefficiency, and a number of serious health risks.

Ill effects of sleep deprivation

Your body requires eight hours of uninterrupted sleep on an average, although different people require different number of hours. Uninterrupted, here is the key word. If you’re constantly disturbed, knowingly or unknowingly, your body and brain never get rest properly and this exacerbates your wear and tear. Some of the greatest ill effects and health problems associated with sleep deprivation are

  • Memory loss
  • Drastic and sudden weight fluctuations
  • Bouts of sleep paralysis in which your brain awakens but your body sleeps, giving you a scary experience of paralysis
  • Weak immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease causing heart attack, heart failure, stroke or irregular heartbeat

It also affects your judgment, mind-body coordination and even interpersonal skills.

Coping with sleep deprivation

Here are a few things you can do to cope with sleep deprivation

  • Change your job: Get a day job if you can that doesn’t force you to work night shifts. This will immediately brighten up your lifestyle and instill a sense of regularity. Like the rest of the world, you will be able to sleep at night and get up in morning and be a part of the vibrant world.
  • Adopt healthy habits: In case you cannot change your job that forces you to work night shifts, you can at least adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Consume less caffeine and more water to keep you hydrated. Avoid alcohol. Eat more fruits and raw vegetables (I know, I know, all the standard stuff you have come across umpteen times). Exercise whenever you can. The basic idea is countering all the ill effects of sleep deprivation by making yourself more healthy.
  • Create environment for uninterrupted sleep: If you cannot sleep at night, create conditions that simulate night. Make your room soundproof and use dark and heavy curtains on your doors and windows so that it is completely dark inside. You can also try using White Noise – a technique that uses a uniform noise that dominates all the background noises so that your brain gets accustomed to processing just one voice rather than multiple voices.
  • Seek help from your family: Your family must understand how important it is for you to get a good sleep. Just because you are at home and everybody is awake doesn’t mean that they can keep disturbing you with various stuff. Of course you can not completely cut off yourself from your family life, so you will need to create a schedule, with your family’s help. This way you will be able to take care of the other needs of the family while getting a good sleep.