Keeping a work-life balance can sometimes be tough, particularly when it is impossible to find time to even watch your favourite programme or to catch-up with friends. If this is you, you may find my free resource "Where does All Your Time Go ...?" useful.
It is also tough if you are constantly on shift, working at strange times of the day or off when your partner or friends are working and vice-versa. Having strange sleep patterns, eating at unusual times and being on-call so life isn't as normal as it should be makes shift work psychologically deterimental.
If this is your problem, you will share it with many others as according to The New England Journal of Medicine up to 20% of workers in industralised nations work on rotating or night shifts. And, a consequence of this is Shift Work Sleep Disorder, with symptoms including intense sleepiness and a lack of supply of refreshing sleep. Lack of appetite and weight-loss are also further effects.
Research has also found that shift work can lead to being irritable, depressed, a higher risk of ulcers, insulin resistance and heart disease. So, how do you clock time effectively so the work-life balance is healthy?
Sadly you can't bank up sleep, I wish you could! Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night during a day/evening off. If you can, try to sleep for 25 minutes before the shift begins. Once you have finished, if possible, only have a brief sleep during the day as it could distort your sleep pattern the following night. If you have to sleep during the day ask family and friends to not to disturb you. It may be helpful to talk to your neighbours explaining the work pattern and ask them to be considerate of this. When you do sleep have heavy curtains, switch your mobile off or turn it to Flight-Safe-Mode.
When you can have a full-night sleep go for a short walk later on in the day or have a bath as this will aid a healthy sleep.
Eating regular meals will also help, try lighter choices such as salad, fruit, vegetables, milk , bread or pasta as the ingredients will not cause significant drowsiness which is associated with heavier dishes.
I know this may sound mean, but try to avoid chocolate at work as the sugar will release short-term energy followed by a dip in energy levels. Instead, at work have something easy to pick-at such as fruit which will release energy slowly. Avoid caffeine products early on in a shift as the stimulant will only provide a short-term lift. Although, as it does improve reaction time and alertness for short periods these products may be useful towards the end of a shift.
Don't forget, Rule For Action 14 'Feed Your Soul' discusses this further, along with some of my personally designed and great recipe suggestions.
It is essential to follow a sleep plan, but particularly if you are struggling to sleep.
For instance, have a '30 minute preparation for sleep' time whereby you relax as this will be useful for a healthy sleep. Avoid alcohol or caffeine products during this period; if your brain is full of thoughts of what needs to be done tomorrow log them on a notepad before you relax. Also, if you have chosen to have a 'worry time' do it before the session commences.
Dim the bedroom lights, turn off your phone, read a book or watch a short entertainment programme. Avoid boxsets at this time; I am sure you have been there as have I, and the promise of just one, turns into five, and you get to sleep hours later! Opening a window also may help you sleep better in summer months; be disciplined and go to sleep after the 30 minute preparation time is over. If you can't sleep try to avoid getting up and doing something as it may make your sleep even more disruptive. Try reading for 20 minutes, or a short mindfulness session may help.
If your sleep pattern is disruptive, creating a sleep journal may be useful as it may identify the cause and effect of your sleep deprivation.
At work :-
- Walk around from time-to-time.
- Work light should be bright.
- The lack of natural light can also lead to workers feeling stifled or claustrophobic. One way to deal with this is to bring the outside in. Managers should consider investing in seascape, forestscape, or countryscape images to create an openness even in the early hours.
- Keep in touch with colleagues: if this workspace covers a vast area and specific locations managers should consider a private messaging service to enable communication and for workers to feel integrated.
If you want to discuss how I can help supply a corporate session on this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07544 899678. Alternatively, if you are an organization involved in shift-patterns I am very pleased to offer free advice.