10 Ways to Help Employees Combat Working Night Shifts
Working night shifts can be very difficult for employees to adjust to.
Employees who work night shifts are subject to several potential side effects that can take a toll, including fatigue, increased risk of depression, changes to metabolism, and a sleep disorder.
Fortunately, though, these issues can be avoided by making a few important lifestyle changes, and as their employer, you can help your employees implement these changes.
Surviving night shifts primarily involves taking steps to combat fatigue and stay healthy to uphold an upcoming work schedule.
By taking the following 10 tips into consideration, you can help your employees adapt to their new day-night schedule without sacrificing their mental or physical health.
1. Gradually Transition Employees to Night Shifts
Suddenly switching to night shifts can be very mentally and physically taxing. The sudden change in sleep schedule can cause extreme fatigue, which, of course, can have a significant impact on work performance.
Managers can help employees avoid this by slowly transitioning employees to their new schedule and adjusting to their new circadian rhythm. Make sure to give your employees time to adjust to working night shifts so that they aren't negatively impacted by the sudden lifestyle change.
2. Avoid Excess Caffeine
Caffeine can be a great way to stay awake and get a quick boost of energy at the beginning of a work shift; it can also be particularly helpful for employees who are still adjusting to night shifts.
However, while caffeine offers some great benefits, it should be used in moderation. The effects of caffeine can linger for quite a while, so if you drink it too late into your shift, it can make it difficult to get to sleep after work.
Managers can provide caffeine-free alternatives to coffee and tea in the break room to give employees alternative options.
3. Get Natural Light
One factor night shift employees may not consider is getting enough sunlight. When you sleep all day and work all night, you may not be getting enough vitamin D to stay happy and healthy.
Employees should be sure to take at least 30 minutes to an hour every day to do something active outside.
Encourage your employees to take short breaks throughout the day to get outside and get some sunlight.
4. Find/ Create Balance for Family Time
Employees who have families at home often find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives.
It's important for employees to work with family members to balance family activities, chores, errands, and other personal activities.
Employers should also emphasize the importance of establishing quiet hours so that employees can get as much sleep as they need before working a night shift.
5. Skip Happy Hour & the Night Cap
Having a drink after work is a tradition for many, and while alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it also reduces the amount of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep that you get.
REM sleep is the stage of the sleep cycle associated with feeling refreshed in the morning. When your REM sleep is interrupted, you are much more likely to experience daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
6. Avoid Nicotine
Nicotine is a natural stimulant. It causes your heart rate to increase, blood pressure to go up and breathing to be faster all of which make it more difficult to fall asleep.
By smoking, vaping, or otherwise ingesting nicotine before bed, you are essentially sabotaging yourself.
To help your employees avoid this, you can recommend that employees who do consume nicotine avoid the substance for at least three hours before bed.
7. Take Naps
Getting enough sleep is pivotal, but sometimes the likelihood of getting in those full 8 hours isn't realistic, which is why naps are such a saving grace. Taking a nap at work might seem counterproductive, but it can actually be very beneficial for employees who work night shifts.
A short 20-minute nap is all it takes to feel refreshed, alert, and attentive. However, it's important to avoid napping for any longer than 45 minutes in order to avoid falling into a deeper sleep.
Encourage your employees to take short breaks as necessary to refresh themselves with a quick name.
8. Eat Well
Maintaining a healthy diet is always important but can be particularly helpful for a night worker. Those who do not maintain a decent diet and who are not getting an adequate amount of sleep are at higher risk for health complications.
Employees should focus on eating frequent, light meals throughout the day to maintain their energy levels. Employees should be sure to get an adequate amount of protein, healthy fats, and carbs, and should avoid eating sugary foods near the end of the day.
Employers can provide healthy snacks at work to aid employees in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
9. Reduce Screen Time
Blue light emitted by electronic devices, like televisions and smartphones, is known to reduce the amount of melatonin that your body produces making it more difficult to fall asleep, disrupting the sleep pattern.
Make sure your employees are aware of these effects and encourage them to avoid using electronics for at least one hour before bed. This will make it much easier to fall asleep and prepare for a long night at work.
10. Improve Sleeping Environment
Lastly, employees can establish a healthy sleep cycle to combat fatigue by creating an environment conducive to a good night's sleep.
Here are a few tips you can share with your employees for maintaining an adequate sleeping environment-
- Use blackout curtains
- Keep the temperature in the room cool
- Keep your room quiet
- Wear earplugs
- Wear a sleep mask to reduce light
- Turn off all electronics
Working a night shift can be very draining on employees, especially those that aren't used to it. By taking these 10 tips into consideration, you can help your employees adjust to their new schedule while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular sleep pattern.