Since the invention of electric light, people are no longer bound to sleep at night and work during the day, but our inner clock is still set to this rhythm. Firefighters, air traffic controllers, nurses, call center staff and everyone else working shifts have to adjust their sleep to changing working hours - a particular burden on the body. The result: shift work as an occupational disease. Four out of five shift workers suffer from sleep disorders. The Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) advises night workers to make sure that they also find sufficient and undisturbed sleep during the day.
Sleep disorders due to shift work
Not only the inner clock, but also the normal everyday noise often prevents the day-sleeper from falling asleep. Many night workers suffer from permanent sleep deprivation. Your sleep is prone to failure, is interrupted more often and is nowhere near as deep as the nighttime sleep. Gudrun Ahlers, health expert at TK: "Studies have shown that night workers sleep on average two to four hours less sleep than the colleagues who work during the day."
Tips for preventing sleep problems
- The main sleep phase should therefore be at least four hours, shorter "nap" in the afternoon also help to recharge your batteries. In total, at least seven hours of sleep are needed to stay focused and efficient in the long run.
- Use the quietest room of the apartment - as far away as possible from the kitchen, hallway and bathroom - as a bedroom and possibly even add additional soundproofing.
- Telephone and doorbell should be switched off or - if other family members are in the apartment - be replaced by optical signals. You should also dare to tell your friends and neighbors that you do not want to be disturbed during the day. Also earplugs and blindfolds can help to find sleep.
- It is also advisable to provide the same sleeping conditions during the day as during the night, that is, to ventilate the room well and darken it. The room temperature should be as low as at night sleep as low as possible at no more than eighteen degrees.
Shift work and health
But night workers not only struggle to find sleep during the day, but also to stay awake while working at night. Between two and five in the morning, the fatigue is greatest. Therefore, it is important to take frequent breaks during the night shift in order to be able to work in a concentrated manner afterwards. Bright working rooms, which are also well ventilated and have a low temperature, help to stay awake. In the breaks, night workers should also refrain from heavy food.
To reduce the health burden of shift work, experts recommend that forward rotating shift systems be agreed. The order early shift, late shift, night shift is less stressful for the organism than a rotating counterclockwise shift schedule. In addition, a light therapy can help to balance the sleep and waking phases.