- Do I Really Need 8 Hours of Continuous Sleep?
- What Is Segmented Sleep and Is It Healthy?
- Healthy Sleep: What It Means for You
- Waking at Night
- Improving Sleep Hygiene
- Paying Back Sleep Debt
- Humans Used to Sleep in Two Shifts, And Maybe We Should Do It Again
- What’s Segmented Sleep, and Can It Help You?
- The Origin of Segmented Sleep
- Does Segmented Sleep Benefit You?
- What Medical Experts Say About Segmented Sleep
- The Conclusion— Stick with 8 Hours
- What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?
- What is Healthy Sleep?
- The myth of the eight-hour sleep
- Shift Work & You
Do I Really Need 8 Hours of Continuous Sleep?
By: Lauri Leadley, CCSH, RPSGT – Clinical Sleep Educator|Sleep Coach
Lauri Leadley, Clinical Sleep Educator, President of Valley Sleep Center
Sleep is fundamental to good physical and mental health. When you are rested sufficiently, the body and brain are energized and you tend to be sharp, focused, and more productive.
However, a common question people have regarding sleep is this – how many hours should I sleep to feel rested and invigorated?
An off-shoot of this question, and probably something most people are curious about, is – do I really need eight hours of continuous sleep?
There is a greater context to both these questions which extends beyond just the number of hours a person sleeps to include the quality of sleep and its impact on physical and mental health.
What is the Definition of “A Good Night’s Sleep?”
The short and simple response to these questions – how fresh and rested do you feel when you wake up?
If you were to do a flash survey and asked a group of people how many hours of sleep they clock, you’d probably get answers ranging from 4 – 9 hours. Work pressure, shift work, the condition of their health, as well as sleep disorders, genetics, age, health, and physiological explain the variations.
For this reason, some people average 6 – 7 hours and wake up feeling fresh and energized while others need eight or more hours of sleep to feel sufficiently rested.
So, if you wake up feeling refreshed and energized after 6 hours of sleep, then your body probably needs 6 full hours of sleep as opposed to 8 continuous hours. However, when we look at averages, adults need between 7-9 hours of continuous sleep each night.
Related Article – White Paper: How Much Sleep Do Adults Need?
Do You Suffer from Poor Sleep Quality?
In all the chatter about how many hours of sleep an individual needs every night, quality is often overlooked. Poor quality sleep impacts you on different levels.
It affects your mood, your energy levels, and your productivity. If you suffer from poor quality sleep for extended periods of time, it can lead to health risks like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Related Article – Are You At High Risk For Getting Sleep Apnea
Here are five signs your sleep quality is not good:
- You need more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed.
- You suffer from insomnia.
- You have disrupted sleep – you tend to wake up more than once every night.
- You continue to stay awake for more than 20 minutes anytime you wake up at night instead of easily falling back into sleep.
- You spend less than 85 percent of the entire time you spend in bed sleeping.
If you answered with a yes to the above-mentioned points, then you need to seriously assess your sleep quality. If your problem persists and you continue to suffer from poor quality sleep, it is best to consult with a professional sleep coach ASAP. There is simply no reason to wait.
To be productive in life, you must sleep properly and sleep enough.
5 Tips for Sleeping Better
If you have been diagnosed with a health issue which is impacting your sleep quality or you suffer from a sleeping disorder, seeking medical help and consulting with a professional sleep coach is a necessary step for improving your quality of sleep.
If you enjoy decent health yet suffer from poor quality sleep, consider the following:
- Schedule your sleep – establish and stick to a set bedtime.
- Improve your sleeping space by removing all distractions, using comfortable sleep accessories (mattress, pillow, etc.), and ensuring optimal room temperature. In short, making your sleep space conducive for just that–sleep.
- Avoid consuming stimulants before bedtime. If medications are keeping you up, speak with your doctor about it.
- Exercise on a regular basis – physical activity during the day helps your body by promoting more restful and deep sleep.
- Relieve stress either through yoga, meditation, stretches, massages or any other activity which helps you to de-stress.
Valley Sleep Therapy – We Believe in Good Quality Sleep for All!
If you are looking for information about sleep devices and products or services for treating different sleep disorders, we would be more than happy to help.
You can also visit us at Valley Sleep Therapy if you are shopping for CPAP, AutoPAP, and BiLevel CPAP machines. Browse our online CPAP supplies store or visit us in Mesa, AZ today!
What Is Segmented Sleep and Is It Healthy?
Most people today don’t have the time to sleep in two separate segments and would probably end up not getting the sleep they need. And one short sleep segment isn’t the answer. “Four to five hours of sleep is not enough,” says Connolly. “It may not impact you immediately, but if you continue this pattern, your health will suffer.” Disrupting your sleep/wake cycle can put every cell, tissue, and organ in your body at risk and lead to serious medical problems such as obesity, stroke, heart disease, and mood disorders.
Healthy Sleep: What It Means for You
Healthy sleep is different for every individual, but Connolly says that most adults need about 8 hours of sleep a night. “Studies show adults who consistently sleep 7 to 8 hours every night live longest,” he says. Some people require just 6 hours and others may need 10, but we all need good quality sleep, and that means staying asleep for a set chunk of time. “Sleep is essential to overall body health,” he adds. Deep sleep repairs and renews your body. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep recharges your brain.
But what if your job or a newborn in the family forces you to sleep in segments — how do you get the sleep you need? “New parents should split up nighttime duties and try to sleep when their baby does,” Connolly suggests. “Shift workers should stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Everybody should make time for sleep – it’s a health priority.”
Waking at Night
If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t panic. Connolly says avoid looking at the clock and try to go back for a second sleep. If you can’t fall back asleep, do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to music. Stay away from the computer and the TV — both produce too much artificial light and can overstimulate your brain.
Improving Sleep Hygiene
Many people have bad sleep habits that make getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult. Connolly tells his patients to practice good sleep hygiene. “Treat yourself like a 3-year-old,” he says. “Set a bedtime schedule and stick to it. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine or eat heavily close to bedtime. Exercise early in the day. Turn off the computer when the sun goes down to avoid the strong artificial light. Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and free of electronic noise and light.”
Paying Back Sleep Debt
“Every time you sacrifice on sleep, you add to your sleep debt,” says Connolly. “Make it up right away.” So, if you lose 2 hours of sleep on Sunday night, try to get 2 extra hours on Monday night. Just like any debt, a sleep debt can be difficult to pay back if you allow it to accumulate. Get out of debt, and stay out of debt – your health depends on it.
Humans Used to Sleep in Two Shifts, And Maybe We Should Do It Again
Around a third of the population have trouble sleeping, including difficulties maintaining sleep throughout the night.
While nighttime awakenings are distressing for most sufferers, there is some evidence from our recent past that suggests this period of wakefulness occurring between two separate sleep periods was the norm.
Throughout history, there have been numerous accounts of segmented sleep, from medical texts, to court records and diaries, and even in African and South American tribes, with a common reference to “first” and “second” sleep.
In Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge (1840), he writes:
“He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream.”
Anthropologists have found evidence that during preindustrial Europe, bi-modal sleeping was considered the norm. Sleep onset was determined not by a set bedtime, but by whether there were things to do.
Historian A. Roger Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past describes how households at this time retired a couple of hours after dusk, woke a few hours later for one to two hours, and then had a second sleep until dawn.
During this waking period, people would relax, ponder their dreams, or have sex. Some would engage in activities like sewing, chopping wood, or reading, relying on the light of the moon or oil lamps.
Ekirch found references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years.
Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear. Thus, modern society may place unnecessary pressure on individuals that they must obtain a night of continuous consolidated sleep every night, adding to the anxiety about sleep and perpetuating the problem.
Less dramatic forms of bi-phasic sleep are evident in today’s society, for example in cultures that take an afternoon siesta. Our body clock lends itself to such a schedule, having a reduction in alertness in the early afternoon (the so-called ‘post-lunch dip’).
In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted a laboratory experiment in which he exposed a group of people to a short photoperiod – that is, they were left in darkness for 14 hours every day instead of the typical 8 hours – for a month.
It took some time for their sleep to regulate, but by the fourth week, a distinct two-phase sleep pattern emerged. They slept first for 4 hours, then woke for 1 to 3 hours before falling into a second 4-hour sleep. This finding suggests bi-phasic sleep is a natural process with a biological basis.
Pros and cons
Today’s society often doesn’t allow for this type of flexibility, thus, we have to conform to today’s sleep/wake schedules. It is generally thought a continuous 7 to 9-hour unbroken sleep is probably best for feeling refreshed. Such a schedule may not suit our circadian rhythms, however, as we desynchronise with the external 24-hour light/dark cycle.
To successfully maintain a split sleep schedule, you have to get the timing right – that is, commencing sleep when there is a strong drive for sleep, and during a low circadian point, in order to fall asleep quickly and maintain sleep.
Some of the key advantages of a split sleep schedule include the flexibility it allows with work and family time (where this flexibility is afforded). Some individuals in modern society have adopted this type of schedule as it provides two periods of increased activity, creativity, and alertness across the day, rather than having a long wake period where sleepiness builds up across the day and productivity wanes.
In support of this, there is growing evidence suggesting naps can have important benefits for memory and learning, increasing our alertness and improving mood states. Some believe sleep disorders, like sleep maintenance insomnia, are rooted in the body’s natural preference for split sleep. Therefore, split sleep schedules may be a more natural rhythm for some people.
Implications for shift work
Split sleep schedules have recently begun to emerge as a potential alternative to continuous night shift work. Working at night has the combined problems of prolonged wakefulness (often working 8 to 12-hour shifts) and circadian misalignment (working at a time of night when you would normally be asleep).
Shift workers frequently complain of fatigue and reduced productivity at work, and they are at increased risk for chronic disease such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Some industries have employed schedules with shorter but more frequent sleep opportunities, on the premise that the drive for sleep will be less with reduced time. For example, 6 hours on/6 hours off, 4 hours on/8 hours off, and 8 hours on/8 hours off, limiting time on shift and reducing extended periods of wakefulness.
Split sleep/work schedules divide the day into multiple work/rest cycles so employees work multiple short shifts, broken up with short off-duty periods every 24 hours.
Split-shift schedules that maintain adequate sleep time per 24 hours may be beneficial for sleep, performance, and safety. A number of recent studies have found split sleep provides comparable benefits for performance to one big sleep, if the total sleep time per 24 hours was maintained (at around 7 to 8 hours total sleep time per 24 hours).
However, as might be expected, performance and safety can still be impaired if wake up and start work times are in the early hours of the morning. And we don’t know if these schedules afford any benefits for health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
While the challenges of night shift work cannot be eliminated, the advantage of some split shift schedules is that all workers get at least some opportunity to sleep at night and do not have to sustain alertness for longer than 6 to 8 hours.
Although we aspire to have consolidated sleep, this may not suit everyone’s body clock or work schedule. It might, in fact, be a throwback to a bi-model sleep pattern from our pre-industrial ancestors, and could perhaps work well in a modern industrial setting.
A version of this story was first published in June 2016.
Melinda Jackson, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University and Siobhan Banks, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Sleep Research, University of South Australia.
This article was originally published by The Conversation. Read the original article.
What’s Segmented Sleep, and Can It Help You?
Getting a good night’s sleep has long been considered a matter of logging in at least 7 or 8 hours a night. But recently, it seems that increasingly more people are turning to something known as “segmented sleep.” Whether out of necessity, part of a health and wellness plan, or beliefs that it can improve productivity, some are using this sleep technique as an alternative to the classic 8. What is segmented sleep, though… and is it even good for you?
Let’s take a look at what medical professionals and other experts say about the claimed benefits of this new sleep trend.
The Origin of Segmented Sleep
Segmented sleep claims its origins in the sleep patterns of our most ancient ancestors. Early humans, after all, didn’t live in the conditions we live today; in fact, they more often than not were on the go or on the alert (and we’re not talking about errands, back-to-back meetings, or soccer practice – more like running from larger predators and looking for new food sources.). As a result, they often slept in segments of 2 to 3 hours when they could throughout the day instead of sleeping in a single longer period.
There is evidence of these segmented sleep patterns in historical writings of more recent eras, too, including in ‘The Canterbury Tales’. A recent study run at NIH even claimed that people fall naturally into a segmented sleep pattern when deprived of the light stimulation caused by modern life.
Does Segmented Sleep Benefit You?
Due to its prevalence in human history, proponents of segmented sleep claim that it is a natural sleep pattern for humans, with some even claiming that we were actually intended to sleep this way.
One of the main benefits claimed by segmented sleep advocates is that it provides a more flexible schedule. Additional claims include increased productivity and enhanced calm during the day due to meditative thinking done while awake at night.
While it can certainly help someone manage a busy schedule (parents of small children might relate)… the benefits of a segmented sleep schedule are still unproven and, in fact, fly in the face of what many medical experts have to say.
What Medical Experts Say About Segmented Sleep
Despite the claimed benefits of segmented sleep, there still seems to be consensus among general medical experts that 8 hours a night is best. A full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep allows the brain to go through all necessary sleep cycles, including REM and deep sleep.
When the brain is deprived of these cycles, it can be detrimental to the health of the brain and the body. Missing out on full sleep cycles can cause cortisol levels to rise, leading to feelings of stress and anxiety, while also limiting the release of hormones that help the body restore damage done from the wear and tear of the day.
Depriving yourself of sleep can even raise hormones that cause you to retain fat and eat more, while also affecting your memory.
The Conclusion— Stick with 8 Hours
Given the number of health risks involved in missing out on deep sleep cycles, the majority of medical experts advise sticking with the classic 8-hour routine, especially for kids. If you do want to explore the potential benefits of segmented sleep, especially if your schedule necessitates it, mix it in with full nights of sleep to ensure your body gets what it needs.
While the segmented sleep myth may retain some adherents, at the end of the day it seems the classic “8 hours a night” approach might still be the best option for you.
What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?
Share on PinterestAn individual’s sleep pattern is dependent on their internal circadian rhythm.
People have an internal circadian rhythm, a routine of biological and behavioral processes that roughly occur every day over a 24-hour cycle. Despite this, what is the correct time for a person to sleep per night?
And do we really know what the best and healthiest sleep pattern is for an individual’s overall health and sleep hygiene?
In this article, we learn more about the three types of sleep patterns that are most common. These sleep patterns are described below.
Monophasic sleep is what today’s society would refer to as a “normal” sleeping pattern. There is, however, discussion that this has not always been the case.
This sleep pattern became “the norm” during the industrial revolution’s longer-than-normal hours of working time.
Some argue that since the advent of electricity and increased exposure to bright light, melatonin levels are decreasing, as they would if a person were exposed to sunlight. This can interrupt a person’s sleep-wake cycle and have a negative impact on their sleep durations.
Those who practice biphasic sleep typically sleep for a long duration at night, for 5-6 hours, and have a shorter period of sleep or siesta during the day.
The shorter period of rest typically lasts 30 minutes and gives an energy boost to finish the day.
However, a siesta can last for longer, perhaps 90 minutes. An extended siesta of 90 minutes allows a person to have one complete cycle of sleep.
Some say that biphasic sleep is a healthier sleep pattern than a monophasic pattern, and some countries have adopted a biphasic sleep pattern as the normal one.
Another form of biphasic sleep is segmented sleep, which some may refer to as the most natural of all sleeping patterns.
Segmented sleep includes two sleep periods, both of which occur at night. A person experiencing segmented sleep will sleep for 6-8 hours but in two shifts during the night.
Naps may be beneficial and be a more natural way of sleeping.
The suggested benefits of naps include improved memory and learning ability, increased alertness, and an improved mood.
If naps improve health, then is insomnia an actual disorder or a natural form of the sleep-wake cycle?
One theory put forward by historian Roger Ekirch is that before industrialization in the world, it was normal for people to have what was called first and second sleep. This meant that a person would sleep in two segments of time throughout the night with a waking period of about one to two hours in between.
Polyphasic sleepers can rest 4 to 6 times during a day. These sleep combinations are broken down into categories including:
- Everyman: A long sleep time of around 3 hours with approximately three 20-minute naps throughout the day.
- Uberman: Only 3 hours of sleep per day in the form of six 30 minute naps throughout the day.
- Dymaxion: Only 2 hours of sleep per day, in the form of 30 minute naps every 6 hours.
No one person’s sleep requirements are exactly the same. Some require 8 solid hours of sleep for optimal function. Someone else, however, may lead a productive and healthy life on 5 hours of sleep per night with a short nap or naps during the day.
What is Healthy Sleep?
You know that sleep is vital to your physical and mental health. But, how can you tell whether you’re truly sleeping well? Especially if you work shifts, your sleep probably does not look exactly like other peoples’ sleep. It can be hard to measure your sleep patterns against those of the people around you.
On average, adults should optimally receive between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but those needs vary individually. For example, some people feel best with eight consecutive hours of sleep, while others do well with six to seven hours at night and daytime napping. Some people feel okay when their sleep schedule changes, while others feel very affected by a new schedule or even one night of insufficient sleep.
Here are some statements about your sleep. If these apply to you, it’s a good sign that your sleep is on track. If you’re a shift worker and you don’t agree with many of these, it could mean that you need to make changes in your behaviors and routines to improve your sleep.
- You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down to sleep.
- You regularly sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period.
- While in your bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake
- when you wish to be sleeping.
- You wake up feeling refreshed, as if you’ve “filled the tank.”
- You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours (note, it’s natural for people to feel a dip in alertness during waking hours, but with healthy sleep, alertness returns).
- Your partner or family members do not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring, pauses in breathing, restlessness, or otherwise nighttime behaviors.
Shift workers who try to sleep during the day often wake up after fewer than seven to nine hours, because of the alerting signals coming from their circadian system. This does not mean they don’t need seven to eight hours of sleep per day—it just means it’s harder to sleep during the day. Over time, this can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.
The myth of the eight-hour sleep
In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed.
Image copyright bbc Image caption A small city like Leipzig in central Germany employed 100 men to tend to 700 lamps
London didn’t join their ranks until 1684 but by the end of the century, more than 50 of Europe’s major towns and cities were lit at night.
Night became fashionable and spending hours lying in bed was considered a waste of time.
“People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th Century,” says Roger Ekirch. “But the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds.”
Strong evidence of this shifting attitude is contained in a medical journal from 1829 which urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep.
“If no disease or accident there intervene, they will need no further repose than that obtained in their first sleep, which custom will have caused to terminate by itself just at the usual hour.
“And then, if they turn upon their ear to take a second nap, they will be taught to look upon it as an intemperance not at all redounding to their credit.”
Today, most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light.
This could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, he suggests.
The condition first appears in literature at the end of the 19th Century, at the same time as accounts of segmented sleep disappear.
“For most of evolution we slept a certain way,” says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. “Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology.”
The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too.
Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view.
“Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”
But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
“Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied,” he says.
Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
In many historic accounts, Ekirch found that people used the time to meditate on their dreams.
“Today we spend less time doing those things,” says Dr Jacobs. “It’s not a coincidence that, in modern life, the number of people who report anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse has gone up.”
So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you.
Craig Koslofsky and Russell Foster appeared on The Forum from the BBC World Service. Listen to the programme here.
Shift Work & You
Shift workers often find it challenging to balance sleep and activities with their varying shifts. Shift workers often find there is not enough time between each shift to sleep and spend time with their friends or families before they have to get ready for their next shift. We asked a variety of shift workers how they balance their busy schedules in order to make sleep a priority.
Sarah L.: Nurse at a university Hospital
What is your shift schedule?
7 pm – 7 am, three nights a week.
What is your biggest challenge about working shifts?
The biggest challenge for me is managing social activities. People who work normal hours don’t always understand that I still need to sleep between/after work shifts and that I don’t have the entire day free to do whatever I like. Also, it can be difficult to motivate myself to be social after a few busy, stressful nights of work. On my first day/night off, I may spend a few hours lazing around—I call that my night shift hangover. Also, since I work different days each week (for example, one week it may be Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; another week it may be Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), I have to remember to check my work schedule before making plans because my free nights vary.
What helps me…
I find it most helpful to group my shifts together so that I am not flipping back and forth between day and night schedules constantly throughout the week. If I have the time and energy, I will exercise before going into work to experience daylight and work off some stress.
The day after my last night shift, I will try to “short sleep” and wake up after only a few hours to make the most out of my day and get back on a normal schedule. I also try to go to bed early that night to catch up on sleep. Napping also helps out.
Traci K.: Post production TV supervisor
One week of a day schedule (9am – 5pm), then a week of a night schedule (5pm – 1:30 or 2:30am). Every other week, I rotate back.
My schedule is opposite from the rest of the world. It’s great for going shopping, to the bank, doctor appointments, and so forth, but almost all school activities/meetings (plays, performances, sporting events) are held at night to accommodate someone working during the day.
I’m also tired most of the time. I try to take a nap whenever I can, but it’s hard with little kids at home.
I could not do this without support from a spouse, family (especially my mother), and friends. It takes immense juggling all of the time. When I work days, my husband works nights. When I work nights, he works days. I leave extensive notes explaining every event and detail that is happening if I will not be attending (what medicine each kid needs and at what time, what equipment is needed for each event and where that might be). I choose sleep over all else when I have the chance to do it because if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m tired, foggy and grumpy. Staying on top of things, having a clean house and feeling organized also makes me feel good.
Dan T.: Lighting technician for TV commercials
Start times range from 4am to 4pm and are often scheduled without much notice. Days are almost always 12 hours minimum.
When I was younger and single, the hours didn’t matter. I’d come home whenever, shower, sleep, get up, repeat. When I wasn’t working, I would travel, socialize and relax. Now that I’m married with more responsibilities, the extreme change in life at home between working and non-working days is brutal, and sleep loss is the worst. Commercial productions are only obligated to allow you 10 hours between when you are “wrapped” and the next day’s call time. So if it takes 90 minutes to get home, I have total of 8.5 hours to shower, sleep, get up and make the drive back in to work.
Since my type of job is unpredictable, my “down days” can often be spent worrying about when the next job will come, recuperating from the job I just finished, or avoiding making committed social plans with friends and family for fear I’ll have to break them at a moment’s notice.
The best thing for me, truly, is sleep. It all comes down to rest and recuperation.
Catching up with friends or family after a day at work has a direct negative effect on how much sleep I’ll get that night. So I come home, try to “bullet point” the day with my wife, and go to sleep. Blackout curtains are a must.
I really try to get eight hours of sleep. It takes discipline to do this. There are bills to pay, dogs that need walking, emails to check and TV shows I love. If I get home at 9pm, I can sit at my computer and it is suddenly 11:30pm. So instead I come home, clean up, talk to my (very understanding) wife, and go to bed.
Marvin R.: Barista
I usually work mornings, starting at 4am and ending as late as 1:30pm. Sometimes I work afternoons and nights if help is needed.
The biggest challenges about working shifts are planning social activities and sleep loss. If I work in the morning, I wake up at 3:30am, so if I go out the night before, I will have to deal with the consequences of getting little to no sleep. I’ve decided that if it is not worth losing sleep over it I probably won’t go out, or I’ll just go out to make an “appearance,” and get home quickly to sleep as much as I can.
What helps me to keep going is having a hobby to take my mind off work and school and that doesn’t leave me feeling drained or groggy. I make the best of my schedule because I get off early and I still have a lot of time to do other things that I enjoy. I also try to fit in a nap to recharge.
Matt B.: Police officer
I work 9pm until 6am with rotating days off every week.
The biggest challenge about this shift is finding a regular sleep schedule. Some days I go to bed right when I get off work and other days I have to stay up until the afternoon. It’s never the same. Some days I have work obligations that start at 9am and some days I have to take my five year old son to school in the morning. I am well aware that I’m functioning on minimal sleep most of the time and I use one of my two days off catching up on sleep.
What helps me is keeping in mind the benefit of this schedule: the fact that I don’t miss any social events or any of my kid’s events. Most of the people I work with choose this shift strictly because it allows you to spend more time with your friends and family and that helps in dealing with the overall stress of the job.
Eric D.: Fire lieutenant
My shift is 24 hours on, and then 48 hours off.
The biggest challenge for me is trying to function normally the next day. There are shift days when I get maybe three hours of sleep total, followed by strenuous and highly stressful calls on shift. This leads to odd sleep times the following days when I’m off.
What I try to do is nap during the day at work. I also sleep in increments—for example when I get home, I’ll sleep until noon and then try to fall asleep again around 11pm. I’ve also started drinking a nighttime (non-caffeinated) tea that aids in my sleep—it seems to help sometimes.