Image of Dr Sophie Bostock
by Dr Sophie Bostock

In this guide we suggest some practical steps to take if you need help to cope with shift work, the scientific explanations for why sleeping during the day is so hard, and how to get the most from the Sleepio program if you are a shift worker.

Why does shift work make sleeping so difficult?

1. Sleeping against the body clock
The body has an in-built biological rhythm which keeps you alert during daylight hours. When you try and sleep during the day it takes longer to drift off and you’re much less likely to have 7-8 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep.

2. Irregular schedules
People with routine wake-up and sleep times produce hormones which act as signals for the body to sleep or to wake according to 24 hour cycle. The more often you switch your schedule, the harder it is for the body to anticipate. It’s particularly tricky for shift workers with different routines on work and rest days.

3. Sleeping out of sync with people around you
Staying asleep with the noises of daytime hustle and bustle around you can seem impossible. Even if you can find peace and quiet, family responsibilities and personal relationships often mean sleep gets pushed lower down the priority list.

On average, night shift workers sleep for 2 hours less than the average adult. This sleep debt puts shift workers at more risk of accidents and increases long term health risks. Read on for strategies to help you to minimize your sleep debt.

Next: Find the right shift pattern for your body clock

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