Common questions

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by Dr Sophie Bostock

Will a nightcap help me sleep?
Alcohol can act as a sedative in the short term but it actually interferes with restorative sleep making you more likely to wake up feeling unrefreshed.

How can I find time to sleep and spend time with my family?
It can be very hard to ‘ration’ social time when you’re working at odds with other people’s social lives. Over time, sleep deprivation leads to irritability and lack of concentration, as well as more serious health risks. You may need to find a compromise between spending time with your family, and finding quality (well-rested) time with your family. Discuss the challenge as a family, and/or with your partner, and find pockets of time that you can protect to be together.

What about melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone which helps regulate the daily sleep-wake cycles to initiate sleep, so scientists have proposed that it could help shift workers to adapt to new shifts.
A review by Costello and colleagues (2014) looked at the results of 8 trials which had investigated the effects of melatonin in shift workers. The results of the six highest quality studies were inconclusive, suggesting that melatonin was not significantly more effective than a placebo (inactive pill).

What about other stimulants?
If you consult a sleep medicine specialist about Shift Work Disorder they may prescribe a wakefulness promoting agent to take before the start of a shift, or before a drive home such as Modafinil. Stimulants are not a replacement for sleep and should only be taken with medical advice.

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