Working alternating shifts can affect your internal body clock in the same way jet lag can affect you after a long haul flight. When there is a change to your routine, your body and brain may become confused and you could be left feeling tired and low in energy.1

This can result in poor quality sleep and subsequent tiredness, mental slugishness and lack of motivation.

If your job involves driving, operating machinery or working in a hazardous environment, a tired brain may increase the risk of injury or accident.2 If your role involves regular contact with customers, your mood and service levels may suffer as a result of tiredness.2

You may not be able to control your shift patterns, but you can influence how you prepare your mind and body throughout your working day to encourage a better quality of sleep.

Don’t go to bed hungry

If you’re heading to bed at an unusual time, try to have a light snack beforehand – opt for something with high levels of protein or fibre, and you’re more likely to wake up feeling more energised.3  You should try to avoid spicy or fatty foods, as these can disturb your sleep because they’re harder to digest.

A good pre-bedtime snack is a banana – they’re rich in magnesium which helps muscles to relax, and they also contain serotonin and melatonin, both of which encourage sleep.4

Create a quiet environment

Remove all noise-making objects from your bedroom, or at least ensure your phone is not going to disturb you by turning it onto silent. Ask anybody you live with to keep quiet during your sleeping hours (you could use ear plugs if necessary to block out more noise), and remind friends and family of your working hours so they don’t disturb you during your precious sleeping time.

Get the lighting right

It’s natural for us to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light, but if you’re on a night shift you’re going to need to catch up on your sleep whilst it’s light outside. It may be worth investing in blackout blinds or curtains to create a darker environment during the daytime.

Develop a routine

Try and keep a regular sleeping schedule where possible, recording sleep patterns and problems using a diary may help to explain fatigue and tiredness. The NHS has a great version you can download.  It can also be used to help find the most suitable strategies and conditions for a better quality of sleep. Once you have identified a suitable sleep schedule, try to keep to it. 

Scheduling enough time to sleep is important and should be prioritised and planned for. It’s essential to your wellbeing and allows you to function efficiently and safely.

To find out more about Sovereign Health Care and how our Good All Round cash plan can help you keep on top of your everyday health care, visit

1Research Gate 2Healthy Working Lives 3Sleep Advisor 4Independent

Image credit: Shutterstock – SG SHOT

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