Tips for Getting Better Sleep

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Sleep is important for everyone, but given the especially grueling work of those in the health care profession it can be an issue of patient safety.  Non-traditional work hours and changing shifts can make it especially difficult, but with patients lives at stake it’s something every health care worker needs to prioritize.  We’ve put together a list of tips for helping you get better sleep.

Consistent schedule: creating a consistent sleep/wake schedule, even on the weekend can do wonders.  It gives your body the opportunity to adjust to whatever schedule you are working.  The temptation to sleep in on the weekends can be hard to resist but if you have a consistent work schedule, changes in your sleep schedule can actually do more harm than good.

Exercise:  Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to help your sleep routine, but you have to be smart about it.  Exercise releases endorphins that can ramp you up, so you want to schedule your exercise times early in your day.

Healthy eating habits:  Your body needs to slow down in order to truly rest.  If it’s busy processing a heavy meal, it may not be able to do this.  Try to eat your heaviest meal early in your day and eat increasingly lighter as the day goes on.

Watch your caffeine intake:  Avoiding caffeine is very hard to do.  Especially when you are tired, but a lot of times it does more harm than good.  Eliminating caffeine entirely would be optimum, but if not, limit yourself to early in your shift, especially if your schedule is inconsistent.

Avoid alcohol:  That glass of wine before bedtime may call your name and make you feel more relaxed but it can wreak havoc on your sleep.  Focus on other ways to relax before bedtime and leave that glass of wine for girls’ night out.

Focus on stress relief:  Stress is one of sleeps biggest enemies.  Many a good night’s sleep has been robbed by running thoughts.  To combat this, first try to tackle the things you can control.  Putting something off only increases the stress.  For the things you can’t control, consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine.  Meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga can make a big difference.

Relaxing bedtime routine:  If you have kids, you probably have a bedtime routine for them.  Bath, brush teeth, pj’s, book, song, lights out.  But kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from time to transition from the active state of the day to the resting state of the evening.  Plus, the consistency helps signal to your body that it’s time to rest.

Screen free time:  This is extremely hard in our current plugged-in society.  But as relaxing as Angry Birds or the latest episode of Greys Anatomy in bed seems, the light from the screen activates your brain even after you’ve shut it off.  When creating your relaxing bedtime routine, leave the iPad out.

Shift work techniques:  Working an inconsistent schedule can make getting productive sleep difficult under even the best circumstances.  Here are a couple of tips to help.

  • Trying to sleep at night is hard enough, trying to sleep during the day is like pushing a bolder up hill.  Try to give your body the signals it’s looking for by making your sleep area dark and keeping your work area brightly lit.
  • Caffeine consumption is especially important for a changing schedule.  Be even more diligent about limited caffeine to early in your shift to allow your body plenty of time to eliminate the stimulant before you need to sleep.
  • For more specific information on surviving shift work, see this article from Nursing World.

How do you ensure that you get enough sleep?


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