What you do before, during and after a shift can make a huge difference to your sleepiness and your general mood. We have a detailed article on how to optimise your sleep during shift work but here are some key tips that can be helpful for both night shifts and late shifts:
Before your shift
Most people can cope with up to a 2-3 hour change to their sleep-wake cycle. If you have a few days before you start night shifts, gradually taper your sleep and wake times towards the new schedule. It can also be helpful to take a nap before your shift to reduce sleepiness when you’re at work. However, it’s important to be aware that if you nap for more than 30-40 minutes, your body will enter deep sleep.
Staying alert while you’re at work
When you have the same shift for at least a few days, eat a meal or snack at the same time each day to promote regular body cycles. If you’re feeling very tired during a shift, remember that a mid-shift power nap of up to 30-40 minutes is more effective than coffee for improving alertness.
Getting home after your night shift
Daylight is a signal to the body to stay awake. Wear dark glasses on the way home to encourage the production of melatonin and prepare the body for sleep.