In your search to find the missing link between overcoming insomnia, sleep-deprivation and shift work, have you ever researched websites or purchased a book about sleep?
Let me guess. Some of the content of the book read like this.
“Get more sleep” they say.
“Go to bed at the same time every night” they say.
“Only go to bed when you’re feeling tired” they say.
Every time I read this I just want to roll my eyes because that’s all very nice and dandy, but it’s just not realistic when you work irregular hours 24/7.
It’s also really hard when we cannot sleep so we lie awake worrying about the fact that we cannot sleep (which compounds the problem even more by adding psychological stress) which ends up making us even more tense and highly strung!
Fabulous! Sleep-deprived AND stressed – just what we want as a shift worker.
However I have to admit, there is one sleep-inducing technique that has definitely helped to increase the QUALITY of my sleep over the years (because we can forget about quantity when we work peculiar hours) and that’s the following:
It’s about being physically fit for sleep – because in order to sleep well, we must release some of the tension which is going to prevent us from falling into that wonderful place called “slumber”.
Our bodies are designed to move but if we lead a sedentary life, sitting at a desk for most of the day or spending hours in the car, our natural body movements become restricted which has negative consequences on our well-being.
A sedentary lifestyle can adversely affect our posture and we often find ourselves complaining about aching necks and stiff backs. Movement is also fantastic for relieving stress – a common complaint amongst shift workers from all around the world.
Of course that being said, if the mere thought of exercise makes you shudder, it’s worth remembering that we can do so gently which does not require you to push your body to its physical limits. So don’t worry – you DO NOT have to spend an hour in the gym pumping weights or doing a spin class!
I know – “thank goodness for that!”
So if you’re someone who suffers from a build-up of tension in your neck, you can benefit enormously by doing some gentle stretches before going to bed. Or, you can always incorporate exercise into your daily routine by using the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
Essentially exercise does not have to be vigorous to be beneficial.
So start making the change to get moving more often. I know it can be really hard to motivate oneself to get off the couch when you feel so tired and exhausted all of the time, but if you just do a little bit more than you did yesterday you will begin to reap the benefits associated with incorporating movement and sleep into your shift working lifestyle.