Being a shift worker typically leaves most with a complicated feeling. Like something is missing in your world. That thing is rest! Especially for those who work the night shift, the feeling of being well-rested is elusive and mysterious. However, working shift work does not have to be the end of your beauty sleep days, there are several things that you can do to get those really deep sleep cycles back for good.
Shift work has me tired all the time – How to boost your energy: Taking control of your resting situation when you are working shift work is the key to getting your energy back. There are multiple methods for getting your energy back including responsible caffeine intake, regulating your schedule and blocking out the sun in your sleeping area. A combination of adjustments is likely your best bet.
If you are feeling a little groggy from your wacky work schedule, join us as we discuss all of the ways that you can take control of your energy! Each solution is complicated and your situation is unique, so you will want to keep your circumstances and resources in mind as you read.
Why Shift Work Steals Energy
The reality is that people who are working shifts are all working jobs that are wildly different from each other.
Hospital employees, police officers, factory workers, are just a few of the crucial fields that generally operate on a shift-based schedule.
The one thing that shift work has in common across the many fields that employ this scheduling technique is that many employees complain of decreased energy from the taxing demands of shift work.
In order to better understand how to tackle the issue of decreased energy due to shift work, we should look at the cause of the decreased energy. While each of these may not apply to every shift working job, there are many that could be contributing to your particular situation.
Long Working Hours
Shift work, while usually landing around 40 hours per week in theory, requires employees to work longer hours than most jobs. While employees who are working shifts may technically average 40 hours a week, they tend to work a 12-hour day rather than an 8-hour day that a “regular” schedule would require.
12 hours is a very long time to have to concentrate on your job. In fact, considering that most of us get between 6-8 hours of sleep, a 12-hour shift would only leave you with around 4 hours of “free” time or to “wind down”. This in and of itself is physically and mentally draining and can cause you to feel run down and like you have little to no energy.
If you want some tips on how to manage a 12-hour shift schedule, check out this post.
Enhanced Physical/Mental Activity
This likely does not apply to every shift worker. However, in many cases, such as in the field of healthcare, your body and mind are challenged far more during working hours than they are during non-working hours.
If you have ever noticed that your body aches a little bit when you get off work, or if you notice that you have a headache at the end of a shift, then this is a good indicator your job is demanding an awful lot physically and mentally. This can be a cause of stress which can further reduce your energy in your daily life.
In some cases, shift work can feel redundant and a bit mundane.
Even in many of the more prominent fields that use shift work, the work can sometimes be a bit boring.
When the brain is left to wander as you complete repetitive or mundane tasks, then you might notice that you feel a little more sleepy during these times. Now not every job allows this, but here is a great article from us that details how to stay busy when working night.
Your Circadian Rhythm
This one is especially true for those who work the night shift. Your Circadian Rhythm is a fancy way to refer to your internal clock that exists even when you do not know it is there.
This internal clock knows when it should release chemicals that make you want to sleep and it also knows when it should give you the energy to work or live your life.
While Circadian Rhythm is somewhat flexible, it takes a little time for your body to adjust when your rhythm is even slightly out of whack. This is why it is hard to adjust when you travel and switch time zones, your body will eventually adjust, but it takes a bit of time.
The issue with shift work is that there are days when you work and days when you are off of work. Working in shifts, especially night shift, can be incredibly complicated for your body to catch a rhythm. If you are constantly switching between night and daytime sleeping, then your body will have a tough time keeping up.
In addition, your body takes cues from the light that it detects outside. This is why experts often discourage sleeping in a room with a television light on. The light disrupts the sleep cycle, even if you are unaware that this is happening. Taking a smart device to bed has impacted this even more so. So, sleeping during the daytime is difficult for your body to understand and you must train it to full up your energy stores.
In most shift work situations, your schedule is not consistent. Some people work alternating day and night shifts, and this may be the worst irregular schedule of them all for the major confusion that will happen with your body’s internal clock. However, even those who are on a consistent day or night schedule still experience some irregularity.
Day shift workers are not really affected by an irregular schedule unless they make a habit of not taking their sleep seriously. However, night shift workers tend to work several days in a row for one week and then fewer days the next week. This schedule creates a difficulty in working and sleeping to maintain a social life.
Ways to Take Control of Your Energy
Just like each of the complications that accompany your shift work situation are different, the right solution for you will also be unique.
However, no matter what issues might be contributing to your energy in regards to your work schedule, there is a great solution to help you overcome that problem.
For those who are struggling to find a solution regarding your body’s internal clock, installing blackout curtains in your bedroom can be an easy and inexpensive solution to this monumental problem. Remember, your body is sensitive to the light of the sky and your sleep can be significantly less effective during the daytime.
Whether you know it or not, light can deeply affect your ability to sleep during the daytime. Before the invention of modern technology, for example, people were woken up in the morning by the light of day. Our eyes are designed to detect and react to the light of day which means that your sleep is interrupted during daylight hours whether you realize it or not.
Blackout curtains are designed with two results in mind. First, blackout curtains have a fringe benefit of reducing the energy spent heating and cooling your home. More important to our purpose, blackout curtains can effectively reduce the amount of light that can impact your sleep when getting your zzzz’s during the day.
Setting a Schedule
Try to avoid taking rotating shifts that alternate between day and night. While these shifts can be tempting, especially when you are trying to make money, they can be detrimental to your sleep and overall health.
With a rotating schedule, you will be hard pressed to find many solutions that will adequately help your energy situation.
Find out more about what a rotating schedule is and how you can best manage this schedule in another post we wrote here.
[VIDEO] – Having trouble sleeping on night shift? This could be why!
Physical fitness is a crucial part of making sure your body is able to rest and recover.
This might seem contradictory to you, but many people who join the fitness bandwagon will attest to the energy that accompanies regular exercise. In fact, according to Everyday Health, there are scientific explanations that can explain how exercise boosts your energy levels in a monumental manner.
When you exercise, your body will release a natural hormone referred to as endorphins. Endorphins enable your body to perform, move, and in general do anything that requires a little boost in your energy level.
In general, regular exercise tends to stimulate the production of endorphins during other times when your body needs to perform such as during work.
Your heart is one of the most crucial and fragile organs in the human body.
Regular exercise increases the health of your heart and gives you a greater level of stamina to make it through your days. Because of this, you will find your work days become a little easier, with energy leftover for the things you want or need to do at home.
Get Better Sleep
Talk about a boost in energy, regular exercise allows your body to rest better during your sleeping hours. If you can improve the quality of your sleep, then you will likely be able to improve the levels of your energy throughout the work day as well.
If you think you’ve tried everything to help you sleep, check out these more unusual sleeping tips to see if you can finally find success.
Better Mental Focus
As we mentioned earlier, exercise releases endorphins into the body throughout the day in order to allow you to more easily complete tasks.
The energy associated with the release of endorphins is likely to improve your concentration and productivity at work. This can actually further boost your energy because successful completion of tasks and activities tends to lead to a heightened desire to continue those successful tasks.
As you can see, exercise can be extremely beneficial to helping you increase your energy in more ways than one.
In order to achieve results, you do not have to run a marathon. Simple exercise in moderate increments should do the trick (although the sky is the limit so if you want to run a marathon, go for it). Check out this article on the best exercise routine for shift workers.
Anchor Your Sleep
One of the major problems that night shift workers face is that they struggle to maintain a sleep schedule that is consistent and adequate while giving them the freedom to maintain activity with family and friends.
Night shift workers struggle to overcome the urge to wake with the rest of the world on their days off. Unfortunately, this struggle can lead to major issues with sleep consistency.
One solution that could allow night shift workers to overcome this issue is to practice sleep anchoring.
Essentially, sleep anchoring is a way to give your body an “anchor” time that sleep always occurs in order to establish a routine.
Sleep anchoring is the very best practice to overcome sleep issues associated with night shifts.
Basically, if you want to anchor your sleep, you will create a sleep schedule that has consistent overlapping hours for both working and non-working days. The best way to begin this is to make a visual schedule for yourself that you know you will always follow.
For example, if you work from 7pm-7am on the night shift, then you might sleep from 9:30-4:30 on a typical work day. What you will want to do is choose four hours from that chunk of time to be your “anchor” hours.
In this instance, you might choose 9:30-1:30 to be your anchor hours. This would allow you to sleep from 5:30-1:30 on a non-work day in order to give you more time in the afternoon with family and friends.
Check Your Diet
Just as easily as your diet can impact your waistline, it can also dramatically reduce your low levels of energy.
Our lifestyles are simply more difficult when it comes to eating right and getting enough sleep, but not focusing on both of these issues will lead to a dramatic reduction in energy levels.
However, there are some easy things you can do to make sure that your diet is contributing positively to an energy boost.
Eat on a Schedule
Even if you are working long shift work hours, you will want to make sure that you have a regular eating schedule.
Eating every three or four hours is a good way to promote a healthy metabolism and discourage snacking on junk food during the day as well. This might be hard to do during shift work, but it is important that you fuel your body right.
Are you still confused about when to eat on night shift? You’ll love this article we recently updated.
Listen to Your Body
Your body can tell you a lot about what you need to eat and when you need to eat it.
One of the major things that we do is overeat which can lead to a groggy and sluggish feeling. Instead of eating until you are stuffed, try to eat just enough and keep in mind that we often have a skewed understanding of proper portions.
Check Your Rations
It is easy to forget that a balanced meal is the best option for an energy friendly diet. Make sure that your plate has foods from each food group: whole grains, lean protein, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy.
You do not want your plate to be too heavy on any one of these food groups, balance is the key to achieve energy.
Snacking is not entirely bad for you, it is only bad when you choose unhealthy or carb-filled snacks.
Try to choose snacks that are heavy in lean protein and fiber-rich carbs to make sure that you do not get the afternoon sluggish feel. Protein is a great resource for long-lasting energy. Here’s an article on 10 healthy snacks for shift workers.
Sugar is often given a bad reputation for being able to give people an energy boost.
While sugar might give kids a little bit of an energy boost, it can also cause a major crash in the amount of energy you have shortly after you consume it. Shift workers really need to limit their intake.
Moderate Caffeine Intake
In a pinch, caffeine can do really great things to give you a boost of energy that you are looking for in one way or the other.
Coffee, without massive amounts of added sugar is a great way to achieve a boost when you are feeling a little sluggish.
Coffee can also be really helpful in making sure that you can wake up before it is time to go to work. Just make sure not to overdo the amount of caffeine. For those that may want a pick me up during your break at work, read our article on the coffee nap.
There are also some important things to remember about drinking caffeine on night shift which you can check out here.
Make Social Plans in Advance
Night shift workers who struggle with maintaining that anchored sleep schedule due to a social life will continue to be groggy until they can maintain a sleep schedule.
One way that you can easily avoid this is to make it a habit to schedule social plans in advance. Talk to your family and friends about the importance of your sleep schedule. If they are true friends, they will be willing to respect your wishes and make every effort to set up social plans in advance while taking your sleep schedule into account.
Summary: Shift Work Has Me Tired All the Time – How to Boost Your Energy!
Shift work can have major effects on your levels of energy and usually not in a good way. The good news is that there are ways to overcome the negative impact that shift work can have on your sleeping habits.
Increased energy will make your shift work experience much more enjoyable, and hopefully when you are a little more rested, you will also be able to enjoy more quality time with friends and family along the way.