Updated on June 9, 2020
New Shift Work Hours? How to Reset Your New Sleep Schedule
Most people have a regular sleep schedule (also read our article on Healthy Sleep Tips) whereby you sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
However, when your new job involves shift work, your sleep schedule will need to change. Flying eastwards tend to cause more jet lag compared to flying westwards because it is harder to advance sleep than to delay it.
Here are some smart strategies to help prevent interrupted sleep patterns.
Do it Gradually
Most people cannot handle a huge shift in their sleep routine such as jet lag where it involves a time zone change of more than 8-12 hours. You need to adapt to the new time zone as soon as possible.
If you know you will be crossing different time zones, plan ahead and move your sleep schedule forward or back in 30-60 minute increments 1-2 days leading up to the shift.
It may feel tedious but small changes make the adjustment a lot easier.
Adjust the lighting in your bedroom
Your brain relies on the presence or absence of sunlight to know when it is time to wake up and when to sleep. Light affects the production of your hormone melatonin which regulates your sleep.
As such, you may need to lower the lighting, use sleep masks or draw the curtains in your bedroom to trick your brain that it is time to sleep in order to adjust to your new time zone.
For example, you may need to sleep in the day so that you can be rested and awake to perform your night shift without feeling tired.
Take short power naps
When your sleep schedule is in flux, you might find yourself more tired than usual. While a short 20-minute nap in the early afternoon can give you a boost of energy, sleeping for much longer or too close to bedtime will confuse your body’s sleep rhythms even more than they already are.
So if you’re tired but it’s close to dinner time, try to power through and head to bed early.
Go outdoors for a walk, breath in the fresh air and expose yourself to sunlight.
You can also do some exercises in the gym or in your room to stay active.
Adapt to the new time zone on the plane
When you get on the plane, reset your watch to the new time zone so that you prepare yourself beforehand. Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration as this can make jet lag worse.
All types of tea have a calming effect on the body.
Avoid caffeine or alcohol as this can affect your sleep pattern because they can act as a stimulant.
Bring along some personal items
Having your favourite pillow or personal mementoes such as a photograph of your family or partner by your bedside in a hotel room may bring a sense of peace and calmness.
Go through your usual routines such as your favourite bedtime drink or music to listen to.
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If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.