Working for a night shift is difficult since our bodies are not naturally adept at staying awake for long hours during the night. Keeping yourself awake during these situations is a struggle; you may not be able to cope with it during the first day, and you probably still won’t after months or even years of working on a night shift.
Being drowsy or sleepy can affect the quality of your work, and it will subsequently lead to you getting scolded regularly by the manager or team leader, which could have a profound effect on your work morale.
To prevent problems with staying awake at work, here are some tips to battle sleepiness during the night shift.
Take a Nap Before Work
Taking a nap 20 to 30 minutes before you go to work is crucial so that you won’t get sleepy during the opening hours of your shift. However, if you are feeling exhausted, that 30-minute nap might get longer without you even noticing, and oversleeping would lead to you starting work late.
Before you take a nap, be sure to set up your smartphone or watch alarm so that a device can wake you up if you are close to oversleeping.
Follow a Strict Sleep Schedule
If napping isn’t enough for you to stay awake, then you must do something about your sleep pattern. After going home from work, you should be consistent in what time you’re going to sleep and what time you’ll wake up so that your body will slowly get used to your sleeping schedule.
You may need an alarm to wake you up, but eventually, your body clock will be able to know the time where you must get up from the bed and start preparing for work.
Block Sunlight in Your Bedroom
As the human body is programmed to wake up once the sun rises, one of the struggles of sleeping during the morning after work is the persistent sunlight.
You must put blackout curtains on your windows to prevent sunlight in your room, and if that isn’t enough, you can buy an eye mask that effectively blocks light from entering your vision.
It is essential to keep your bedroom as dark as possible not only because it could trick your brain into thinking it is still nighttime, but also because the darkness makes our body produce melatonin, which is a chemical that naturally causes us to get drowsy.
Eat a Meal in Small Portions
Have you ever felt groggy or drowsy after eating a large meal? That happens because we produce too much insulin after consuming plenty of food, and the insulin then increases our body’s levels of melatonin and serotonin (another chemical that makes us sleepy).
For working at night, it is recommended that you eat only small portions of a meal before and during your shift to prevent the excessive increase of serotonin and melatonin in your body. In addition, you must drink water regularly so that you won’t get tired easily due to dehydration.
Also, you must avoid drinking caffeinated drinks during the middle of your shift as you may have a difficult time sleeping at home, resulting in you not being able to follow the strict sleep schedule suggested before.
Keep Yourself Busy at Work
Doing nothing will obviously make us feel sleepy, and while all of us must do something for work during the night shift, the tasks we have for the day may be too boring that it wouldn’t be enough to make us stay awake and would rather make us sleepier.
To combat sleepiness while working, you may sometimes need to take a break and do something else instead. You can answer Sudoku or crossword books to stimulate your brain, or you can listen to your favorite upbeat songs if a smartphone or music player is allowed in the office.
However, you must not keep yourself from being too distracted by these activities and should focus on your task at hand. You should take a break for three to five minutes after working for one to two hours so you can still accomplish what you need to do for the day.
Socialize with Co-Workers
Talking with other people at work is also another effective activity for us to stay awake besides doing crossword puzzles and listening to music. Not only will it help us fight sleepiness, but we can also learn from our co-workers about their strategies on surviving the night shift.
Along with those benefits, co-workers can sometimes help us in difficult tasks that would make us feel tired and consequently sleepy during the night.
Working on a night shift is like climbing a mountain, as you would have to be prepared before taking it on and you must know what to do to solve the problems that will prevent you from reaching the top, or in the night shift’s case, finishing the task for the day.
Be mentally and physically prepared for the night shift by getting adequate sleep and eating a balanced meal, and be ready when drowsiness comes and combat it by doing activities and having a conversation with your co-workers.