Are you living the life of a shift worker?
Are you going to bed around midnight or waking up during the night and struggling to fall back asleep, at least once a week? You might be living the life of a ‘shift worker’!
Some European countries have come up with a working definition of shift work that simply translates to… If you stay awake for 2-3 hours between 10pm and 5am for 50 days in a year (on average, one day in a week) then you may be considered as a ‘shift worker’.
Here’s what I see often…
The evening is your ‘me time’. The time after kids go to bed (and before they wake you up!). The time after you’ve come home from work or school, had supper, did some chores, walked the dog, etc. and now you just want to have some time for yourself. So you stay up late… maybe to binge watch a program or socialize and have some snacks and a drink. Does this sound familiar?
With limited free time for ourselves, it’s no surprise that we go to bed late.
Why does this matter?
If we delay sleep by 2-3 hours at night or wake 2-3 hours before our usual wake up time and, on top of that, if we try to stay awake by drinking coffee or eating and expose ourselves to bright light too early or too late, these things try to reset our internal clock or circadian rhythm. It takes almost 2 days to adjust to a 2-hour change in sleep time!
The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour cycle of physiological processes, such as sleep, hunger and metabolism, influenced by our hormones and behaviours, and that ultimately affect our body weight, daily functioning and susceptibility to disease.
Unfortunately, disruption of our circadian rhythm can result in a variety of negative health outcomes related to metabolism, digestive health, cancer, heart health and mental health.
What can you do to increase your resiliency to circadian disruption?
That’s the big question, isn’t it?!
How can we balance our responsibilities and need for personal time while still nurturing our circadian rhythms?
Here are my 5 top sleep tips:
1. Go to bed and wake at the same time every day (or as close to as you can).
Consistency is key to keeping in alignment with your internal clock.
2. Seek bright light in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening.
Melatonin is a key driver in our circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. It rises in the evening helping promote sleep, unless it is inhibited by blue light.
Dim lights and use blue light blockers (or nighttime feature) on your devices in the evening, while avoiding screens at least 1 hour before bed. Consider an eye mask if your room doesn’t get completely dark.
In the daytime, try to get 30-60 minutes of bright light—get outside, sit by a window—to increase alertness, mood and cognition.
3. Stay away from a lot of caffeine and alcohol.
Both of these substances negatively affect sleep by disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. For example, in the average adult, caffeine has a half-life of about 5-7 hours. This means that after 5-7 hours, 50% of that caffeine from the coffee you had is still circulating in your system. If you have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, this means that by bedtime, 50% of that caffeine may still be active and you’re only halfway to getting that caffeine out of your system. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening is your best bet.
4. Limit eating 2-3 hours before bed.
It can also be a good idea to wait an hour or two after waking before eating. Research is showing that melatonin can inhibit insulin release, which can affect your blood sugar levels. Eating too close to bedtime or immediately upon waking (before your nightly melatonin levels return to daytime levels) may hinder your body from processing sugar well.
The body also needs time to repair and restore, which it does during sleep. If we eat too closely before bed, the process of digestion takes priority.
5. Optimize your pre-sleep routine.
What you do before bed can improve your chances for a good night’s sleep and decrease circadian disruption. Deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation can help to reduce stress and improve sleep quality. Give yoga nidra a try!
I know it can be hard to figure out sleep troubles. If you’re needing more support with your sleep beyond these tips, come in for an appointment. We can figure out what might be going on and work towards getting you more zzzz’s.
To schedule at Thrive Chiropractic and Wellness, call 780-244 -2441.
To schedule at West Edmonton Naturopathic, click here.