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How to Reset Your Sleep Schedule for New Work Hours
When it comes to sleep, sticking to a routine will help you maximize your energy levels and keep you feeling rested and healthy.
But, what happens when you have to flip your routines upside down? If you have been waking up at 7 a.m. every day for years and suddenly have to work night shifts, how do you save your sleep?
Changing your sleep schedule drastically overnight can be harmful. This is why you feel completely out of whack when traveling long distances and why people experience jet lag for days or even weeks sometimes.
To successfully change your sleep schedule, there are steps you should take to make sure you are being kind to your body and mind.
No matter what your desired sleep schedule change is, it’s important to take these steps to ensure proper sleep health.
The Multi-Step Reset Button
No matter what work schedule we operate on, our bodies are continually cycling through our sleep/wake cycle (1). This cycle lasts about 24 hours, which is good news for us! We usually spend 16 hours awake and 8 hours asleep.
This means that in general, if your shifts are around 16 hours or less, you can still maintain a healthy sleep routine.
Here are some healthy ways you can adjust your schedule when working new hours.
1. Start Gradually:
Set your sleep schedule back (or forward) at 15-minute intervals in the days or weeks leading up to your new job. This may feel tedious, but it will be well worth it on the first day when you arrive bright and rejuvenated.
2. Light It Up:
Our sleep/wake cycle is sensitive to light.
If you work overnight, blackout curtains or sleep masks can trick your body into thinking it’s nighttime when you get home. When you wake up, be sure to expose yourself to as much light as possible to trick your body.
If you work late, slowly dim the lights around you until it’s bedtime to make it easier on your eyes. Avoid televisions and bright lights before bed.
During your sleep time, avoid bursts of light (2) (in the bathroom, car headlights, checking your phone, etc.) and instead use a dim nightlight or flashlight. The sudden bursts of light can tell your body that it’s time to wake up.
3. Nap It Out:
Studies show that short naps in the middle of your workday improve alertness and boost performance (3). This is especially helpful when starting a job with new hours that you are not quite used to yet.
Mind Tricks for Better Sleep
Generally, you want to make sure that whenever you go to sleep, you are in as much darkness and quiet as possible. Blackout curtains, sleep masks, and earplugs can help you fall asleep faster when starting a new sleep schedule.
Upon waking up, exposing yourself to as much light as possible will get your body thinking that it’s morning, no matter what time it is.
Starting your “morning” with a meal is a great way to kickstart your metabolism for the day and let your body know that it’s time to begin the day (4). If you’re not a breakfast person, try eating small amounts of food and gradually increase it day by day.
Exposing yourself to natural sunlight as soon as you can after waking up is a great way to get your cycle in sync.
If you work indoors most of your shift in the daytime, try your best to eat lunch outside. The more your body is reinforced into knowing that it’s still time to be awake, the better it will perform when changing up your schedule.
If you work overnight shifts, make sure to take your breaks in well-lit areas to trick your body into thinking it is still daytime.
But… How do I Fall Asleep at 10 a.m.?
When it comes to sleep, treat yourself. Your sleep health is non-negotiable. Without proper sleep or resetting your routine in a healthy way, you might not be the happiest camper at work.
Aromatherapy is proven to help people fall (and stay!) asleep. Check out our article on the best scents for sleep!
Tips and Tricks
You can also...
- Take a bath (Bonus: Try scented candles, bath bombs, bath salts, or bubble bath)
- Listen to calming music
- Read a book
Repeat your star treatment until your schedule feels natural and you have no trouble catching some zzz’s.
Ready, (Re)set, Go!
Resetting your sleep schedule might sound daunting and perhaps impossible, but with these proven tricks, you’ll show up to your shifts well-rested in no time.
Remember, start gradually, control your lighting, and start napping.
Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself during a nighttime routine. Your sleep is the foundation for virtually everything you do in life, so let’s keep it healthy!
Congratulations on that new job, and we know you’ll reset your schedule like a pro in no time!
(1) “SLEEP-WAKE CYCLES AND SHIFT WORK." Woolcock, www.woolcock.org.au/circadian-rhythm-sleep-disorders/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.
(2) “WORKING NEW HOURS? HOW TO RESET YOUR SLEEP ROUTINE." National Sleep Foundation, 26 Oct. 2018, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/working-new-hours-how-reset-your-sleep-routine
(3) “NAPPING.” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.
(4) Beil, Laura. "How to Get a Good Night's Sleep." Oprah.com, www.oprah.com/health/how-to-fix-your-sleep-schedule. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.