Episode 4: How Does Shift Work Impact Your Sleep?

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What’s it like to be awake when everyone else is asleep – and how does that impact your sleep? In today’s episode, Dr. Shelby talks with Marissa Indgjer, a travel nurse currently working the night shift about what it’s like to be awake from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., how she manages to get a good night’s sleep, and what it’s really like when midnights become your afternoons.


Marissa Indgjer: The rest of the world is sleeping. The city’s shut down and for the most part, it’s almost a little lonely. It’s… it’s not normal. Everyone I have encountered, even if they don’t struggle with sleep, we would all agree it’s not normal. It’s not the healthiest thing for our bodies.

Dr. Shelby: Welcome to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelbywhere we really want to know, how are you sleeping? Really. Are you sleeping? Two-thirds of Americans wake up feeling groggy and weird. Wondering why they were up at three in the morning. Wondering if there’s something wrong with them. If that sounds like you, you have come to the right place.

I’m Dr. Shelby Harris, a licensed clinical psychologist, and I’m the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, where we dive deep into all things sleep, so you can get the rest that you deserve. 
Today, we’re talking about shift work in your sleep. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, over 9 million Americans regularly work the night shift. Do you? 

If so, how do you combat fatigue? Drowsiness? How do you schedule your day, and most importantly, what coping mechanisms can help get you through an irregular schedule? To help answer these questions, we’ve invited Critical Care RN Marissa Indjer, a registered nurse of six years. Three of which have been in a mixed ICU, taking care of trauma, neuro, shock, medical, and surgical patients.

Like so many millions of people, Marissa must remain alert on the job despite challenging, unconventional hours. Today, we’ll talk with her about how to do all that, the challenges it poses in her life, and how to make time for sleep. Marissa, we know your daylight hours are valuable. So thank you very, very much for joining us and welcome to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby. 

MI: Thank you. Thanks for having me. 

DS: So according to the National Library of Medicine, shift work is any work schedule outside the hours of 6pm and 7am. It’s also referred to as the night shift for you. It can be the swing shift, the graveyard shift, there’s all different types of shifts. There’s moving shifts, rotating shifts, as the name suggests, it can be a tough time to earn a living.

So Marissa, to start, can you tell us more about yourself and your experience with shift work and how you got into it? 

MI: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, I’ve been a nurse for a number of years now. I have only had to work the night shift probably two of those six years. I am currently doing travel nursing, and the more opportune jobs are night shift, and that’s where the need is.

And so I’m back to working night shift. I start at 6:45 p.m. and end around 7:15 in the morning. And yeah, I’m working in a cardiac ICU. It’s… let’s just say the busier the night, the better, in order to get through it. But you’re still exhausted. And I know I have colleagues who really prefer it, who love it, but I have never been someone who enjoys it.

DS: Interesting. So, so just a quick question. You said that you are a travel nurse. So how long are you sometimes in these locations? So you’re – you’ll be somewhere I’m assuming for days, weeks at a time, like how does that work? 

MI: Typically, contracts last 13 weeks. 

DS: Okay. 

MI: There are shorter contracts or you can extend depending on if you like the place and the administration and [whether] your supervisors enjoy having you as an employee. But most contracts are all 13 weeks. I work through an agency and I have a recruiter and they help me find jobs in locations that I find desirable. 

DS: Okay. So if you’re working at one place for 13 weeks and it’s mostly, is all you’re doing night shift? Like how long have you been doing night shift for right now?

MI: I switched back to night shift nine weeks ago. 

DS: Okay. 

MI: And it’s been about a year since I had worked nights before that. The work itself can be easier, but for me and how I sleep and the effect it has on my life, I have quickly always chosen day shift if a job opening occurs. 

DS: I see. Okay. First of all, like, when you’re going to different places and working night shift, I mean, you’ve only been doing this again for nine weeks, but you’ve had a while of doing night shifts. Are those conditions with which you’re in night shift very different? Like are some places better lit, some places more conducive to patients sleeping at night and you’re awake? Like, how is that working? 

MI: Each ICU is different, but for the most part, every hospital, we do want to allow for patients to have a regular circadian rhythm. We want them to have as much sleep during the night. So we do lights off by 9 p.m. in the ICU. Around the nurse’s station we obviously have some lights on, but for the most part it is a dark environment. And when things do get serious or intense or your patients are sick, obviously lights go on. But for the most part it’s like [from] 9 p.m. until about five in the morning, we try to keep it pretty dark. And that’s, that’s across the board. That’s every hospital in every unit. And it is, I mean, it’s a great thing for the patients. That’s what we want for them. 

DS: But it’s a struggle I can imagine on your end, because it’s so quiet. And it’s – unless something is happening. But it’s quiet, it’s dim light. 

MI: Exactly. 

DS: Your body’s natural rhythm is going to want to take over so I can imagine that’s even more of a challenge. So tell us about your sleep schedule. Like what does an average day or week look like for you? 

MI: I know I’m not the only one that has difficulty sleeping, working night shift, but – I would say I’m on the extreme end of bad. So I will get home around 7:45, eight o’clock in the morning.

I have a routine. I take a shower, you know, just the normal getting ready for bed. And I usually very quickly fall asleep by 8:30 in the morning. And then I sleep for about 90 minutes. And, and I wake up. And I can either feel extremely rested or extremely groggy, but my brain and my body, even my my stomach is saying, “Like get up! You’re either hungry or you’ve had enough, or let’s do something for the day.”

DS: Yeah. 

MI: I have blackout curtains. I’ve tried eye masks. I’ve taken magnesium or I’ve tried melatonin. Don’t feel like that’s very effective, nor do I know if that’s actually a good thing to be doing. So I’ve tried a number of things, except for I don’t use, like, stereotypical sleep aids. 

DS: So no prescription sleep aids? 

MI: No. 

DS: Okay. Have you ever thought about it or – 

MI: I have thought about it and I’ve – it’s been suggested to me. Obviously, I give medications all the time. I work in a hospital. I personally prefer to take less. 

DS: And so when you’re traveling and you say you come home, are you mostly traveling to places near where you normally live? Or are you at a hotel? I would imagine keeping that sleep environment the same must be hard too. 

MI: I prioritize finding a nice place to live. There’s websites called like Furnished Finder, or you can use Airbnb, that are catered towards traveling healthcare professionals. Like right now, I live in a beautiful home, I have one roommate, and it’s a pretty quiet environment. Nice room. Bed obviously isn’t mine, so that would be one thing, is like what mattress I’m using. That differs from month to month, but overall, I do prioritize a good environment, a good place to live. 

DS: And you said you use light-blocking shades. How do you do that from place to place? Do you have any tips or techniques with how you do that?

MI: You know, I buy them from a store. If the place doesn’t already have the window shades or curtains to cater to that, I’ll just push-pin them in. Get them as close to the wall as possible and block out everything I can. Because I am definitely light sensitive. 

DS: They also make ones that travel now that you can bring around. So – not sponsored at all – but the Sleepout shades, there are different ones that you can bring around that just kind of stick onto the window. And you could also, you know, I use the old-school garbage bag trick. But if you’re staying somewhere for 13 weeks, it’s not so pretty to have garbage bags on your windows.

MI: It’s true. I’ve thought about the, like, cardboard, aluminum foil blocking out, you know. Looking, looking a little, uh, little sketchy from the outside in, but whatever works. 

DS: So we talked a little bit about your sleep schedule on the nights when you do work or the day, during the days when you do work, how many shifts are you working a week? And then what do you do on the days that you aren’t working? 

MI: I guess I should backtrack. I said, I’ll, you know, fall asleep and then be asleep for about 90 minutes. I wake up. And for the most part I can then get another two hours. So I’m averaging about three and a half hours. A great night would be, or a great day for sleeping would be five. And that’s, in these nine weeks, I’ve gotten that twice. 

So to back up, I will sleep on average about three and a half to four hours in between the shifts that I work. And then say, yesterday morning, I got off and then I don’t work tonight and I don’t work tomorrow night. And so I will try to take a nap. And usually that does last an hour to an hour and a half. And then I basically switch back to a normal cycle. I will stay up until 8, 9 o’clock in the evening and then get as much rest as I can. 

DS: Mmhmm. 

MI: On average, even whenever I do work day shift, I am someone who can stay up really late, but I still will not sleep in. I am almost always awake by 5, 5:30 in the morning, irregardless of how much sleep I did get the night before. 

DS: Okay, so nighttime, not ideal either, but you switch back to nighttime sleep on the days or the nights that you have off from work. Okay. 

MI: I do. I work three twelves. It doesn’t always happen that they’re together. They do try, for most facilities, I believe for [the] night shift, they try to clump your days together. 

DS: Okay. 

MI: I prefer to just work three on, four off, three on, four off. To kind of just keep in that cycle. [And] hopefully get so exhausted that I do sleep pretty well by my last shift. 

DS: Are the shifts pretty much the same everywhere that you work? So it’s not drastically different? 

MI: Correct. Yeah, for nurses, almost all hospitals are seven to seven, seven to seven. 

DS: Okay. And were there any challenges that you first faced when you started out as a shift worker that maybe you’ve kind of figured out how to deal with a little bit better by now? 

MI: Hmm… caffeine intake?

DS: So talk to us about that. How, how do you use caffeine? 

MI: I abuse it, maybe not as bad as some of my colleagues. A cup of coffee before I go into work around 6 p.m. and then again around midnight or one in the morning because the- usually around 3 a.m., a 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., we call it the witching hour, is real hard to get through.

DS: Yeah. 

MI: I fell asleep at the nurse’s station two nights ago, head on the keyboard, you know? Like, but that’s just ’cause your eyes hurt. You’re looking at these screens, charting all evening too, so. Yeah, it’s not ideal. 

DS: Not ideal. So other than, you know, the sleepiness that you feel, especially like you said that 3 to 5 a.m. time, how does lack of sleep show up for you? Like what, what sort of symptoms do you notice when you’re sleep deprived? 

MI: I’ve always said to my friends [that] I’m not as nice of a nurse whenever I work night shift. Uh, I care for my patients and I think I do a good job in my work, but – and maybe it doesn’t come out outwardly – but inwardly I’m more easily frustrated or annoyed.

DS: Yeah. 

MI: The things that probably wouldn’t, you know, aggravate me or push my buttons are going to push my buttons quite a bit quicker. And then just general fatigue, you know? For the first, first seven weeks here, I felt, like, chronically nauseated. Lost weight. Didn’t want to eat. Headaches come on quicker.

DS: Yeah, pretty common shift work symptoms, unfortunately. Shift work sleep disorder issues. 

MI: Absolutely. 

DS: Do you talk with any of your fellow colleagues at night about ways that other people, other than caffeine, the ways that other people deal? Have you heard stories from how people have managed? 

MI: I think so. And that’s where I do feel a little bit on the outlier side, is that it appears that a lot of my colleagues have an easier time sleeping and resting. Some of them have tried sleep aids or prescription medications like Trazodone, low doses of that. So it’s just them. But for the most part, I feel like I’m trying and doing the things that other people are doing.

Along with that, I think a lot of my colleagues have just accepted that five hours might be their – that’s, that’s what they get. That’s what they’re okay with. 

DS: And then for you it sounds like five hours is a rare gem to even get. Correct? 

MI: Yeah. Correct. 

DS: Okay. And napping, do you take, like, if you’re getting up, I mean, you’re sleeping, what? 8 a.m., 8:30 until what, 12, 1 o’clock? On and off? 

MI: Yeah, I would say yes. Yes. 

DS: So I’m catching you at, like, prime sleep time, probably, for this interview. 

MI: Oh, it’s okay. I didn’t work last night. I didn’t. I slept, I did sleep very well last night, actually, ironically. 

DS: Good. 

MI: Yes. 

DS: And then what happens, like, do you take, do you take a nap before you go into work routinely? Like, how does that, do you do that ever? 

MI: Sure. So like on my Monday is what we would call it. 

DS: Yeah. 

MI: Yes. That’s my goal. I know a lot of people have tried where they stay on a night shift schedule or they try to flip back. So say they had four days off, on that last day off, they would stay up until one, two in the morning, and then sleep a few hours. Stay up for most of the day and then take, like, a three-hour nap before they go into work.

I have come to the conclusion for me that any sleep is good sleep and we’ll just call it cumulative. And so I take it when I can get it. So if I can’t stay up late the night before, that’s totally okay with me. I’ll take it. And then I have this, these last few months, this assignment, been better at getting in at least an hour to an hour and a half nap before I go into work. Usually between 3 and 4 p.m. 

DS: How about just life, right? So, one of the things, I mean, I worked at Montefiore Medical Center for a long, long time, and I was in their Sleep-Wake Center there. And I worked with a lot of hospital staff. And one of the things that I heard all the time from residents to nurses, everyone who was working, really, who had rough shift schedules, would say that it really impacted their life. Their personal life and socializing. So, how has it affected you, if at all? Like, what do you notice happening in your life, from night shift? MI: I mean, like I said, I think I’m more easily irritable. 

DS: Okay. 

MI: So I’m a pretty joyful, easygoing person. So I would say the days that I am irritated, it’s hopefully not as noticeable as maybe I feel it to be. But I do think it puts a strain on, uh, friendships, on planning things. I don’t, I don’t have, you know, like a spouse or kids right now. I can only imagine the strain that that could cause. But I know just even making plans or recognizing when I am too fatigued to go and do the things that I would like to be doing, um, and needing to take a step back and just, you know, intuitively know what my body needs. Whether that’s, like, a night in instead of being with the people I love, or pushing myself to go do the things even whenever I feel a little grumpy about it. 

DS: Are people understanding… sometimes you just don’t have it in you? Or your schedule that also might be four days on, three days off, or three days on, four days off, you know, like, do they, are they okay with that?

MI: Sure. I think people who don’t work in healthcare and have never had to do shift work, they have a respect for it. They absolutely are like, Oof, that sounds pretty awful. And then, but they don’t have full understanding. They can’t comprehend quite what that’s like. And they, you know, a lot of people say, “Oh, three-twelves, that’s, that’s nothing.”

But I would say that there is definitely, I mean, it’s still a 40-hour work week. There are long shifts and sometimes even emotionally, mentally, and then as well as physically, you need a full day just to recover from- depending on what happens, especially working in critical care. And so I think most people are understanding. And then obviously there’s the healthcare workers who completely get it. And they are pretty compassionate. Even the ones who do sleep well on doing shift work. 

DS: It still ain’t easy. And what you’re doing in critical care, it just, it’s… it’s tough work to begin with and then you’re doing it at a time when your brain is biologically wanting to be asleep. So it’s not easy. 

MI: Absolutely. 

DS: Yeah. 

MI: Absolutely. 

DS: So do they have any, and I was, I think at Montefiore when I was there, we were fortunate enough that our residency training program, a lot of the, the groups on campus- it was an academic medical center. A lot of the groups there really spoke a lot about sleep deprivation and shift work and adjusting. And when I was in the sleep center, I was the referral source. So for a lot of the faculty that there was, or any of the staff that was there. So if someone was really struggling with shift work or insomnia, whatever it might be, they would be encouraged to come and see me. 

Are you offered things like that at some of the hospitals? I know you’re rotating, but do you know of any, like, resources? I feel like that was a rare thing that we had at the hospital. 

MI: That sounds like an amazing resource that you guys had. 

DS: I know, right? 

MI: No, I, I wonder if academic centers, if that’s an irregular thing, but nowhere that I’ve worked or, uh, heard of has had those resources offered or available.

DS: So even if you’re struggling getting help for it, it’s kind of like, just find out on your own, figure it out. But there’s not necessarily, yeah, sleep centers. That’s a shame. But there are resources, like, that’s why it’s so helpful having you here today to talk about this. But yeah, I mean, I think the other thing, too, is that sometimes people don’t talk up or speak up about struggling with shifts, because they don’t want to be viewed as having issues or having issues at work.

But the reality is, it’s not easy for most people to adjust to. There are some people, like you said, who can do it easier, and we just don’t really know why some people can do it a lot easier. They just might have that nighttime chronotype more so, but it sounds like you are not that person. 

MI: I am not that person. And not to generalize this, but even the ones who do seem to have an easier time, there’s repercussions. And you hear about it. I mean, you get close to your coworkers, you know their personal lives. As well as you get to see, like, how are they, how are they physically? What’s going on? How quickly do they age, really, realistically? Or develop chronic illnesses?

DS: Right. And so some of the things that you were talking about earlier that you noticed when you first started going back to night shift, right? Weight loss. Sometimes it can be weight gain. 

MI: Weight gain. 

DS: GI issues. Do you struggle to find, I mean, finding a healthy work life balance is really challenging for a lot of people, just anybody right nowadays. But when you’re doing it on a night shift, do you struggle to find time for healthy eating most of the time? Or exercise? What about that stuff? 

MI: Oh, absolutely. I know that the times I work night shift, I… whether it’s that I feel like I’m eating all the time because I’m awake so many hours or that I’m barely eating at all. It’s not often the healthiest food or it’s just not as fresh of food as I would want it to be. And whenever I do work day shift, normal hours, I also, I’m an avid exerciser. I am obsessed with working out. I love it. I’ve been an athlete most of my life. And so that plays a huge role. And I still prioritize that when I work [the] night shift, but I would say my six out of seven days of, you know, almost two hours of exercise, whenever I work day shift turns into four or five whenever I’m working doing shift work. 

DS: Okay. Do you find that you struggle when you do exercise? That maybe you’re not exercising as strong as you used to, or is it not really impacted so much? 

MI: No, absolutely. I think that my performance levels go down. We know sleep is, I mean, that’s when muscle recovery happens.

DS: Yes. 

MI: It’s when all the benefits happen. And so I would say, yeah, absolutely. My performance levels cannot advance as well as whenever I’m sleeping during the night. 

DS: Yeah. Finding exercise, finding light exposure, all those things are really important. However, your body clock is just not set to what it wants to be, right, for the night shift. So have you ever tried any other sleep schedules? Like, a lot of people – the most common thing is, like you were saying, people flip on the nights that they don’t have to work. So they go back to the original schedule. And mostly because it’s easier to sleep that way, but also they want to have social obligations that they can go to and see people during the day and all that.

Have you ever experimented? Do you – have you ever heard the term anchor sleep? Has anybody ever talked about that at work? 

MI: I have not heard that term. 

DS: So anchor sleep is an interesting thing that you don’t hear many people talking about. But what it is, is it’s really – you’re in a good situation to even try it out if you ever wanted to. But anchor sleep is where Instead of flipping back and forth, which can be, some people, that’s the only way that they can get through and manage in their lives and fine. It is what it is. 

But for some people, if you can find maybe a three, four hour overlap time when you would normally sleep during the day and maybe sleep at night. So it’s not that shift, like really sharp shift between night sleep and day sleep. If you can have a few extra hours, like in the late morning. So on the nights that you are off, what time do you typically go to bed on those nights? 

MI: Between 10 and 11, probably. 

DS: Yeah, you’re probably collapsing because you’re so tired, I’m assuming, right? So staying up a bit later, so you’re still delayed, but not anywhere near as, like, going to bed at 8 in the morning. So maybe 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning. Which sounds kind of crazy, I know, on a night off, but then you have some overlap time when you normally would be sleeping. 

So it makes that easier to sleep and you get a better chunk with it. So some people do find that having that like solid three, four hours when they always are going to sleep, whether they’re working or not, is that anchor and can help sometimes. 

But like I said, it doesn’t work for everyone, but it might be something to try out or at least suggest to other people. Because that flipping back and forth, your body’s never going to learn how to shift.

MI: For sure. Yeah. No, I might have to take a try. 

DS: Yeah. Look up anchor sleep. You’ll get more info on it there. 

MI: I will. 

DS: But yeah, it’s a good one. And then you were talking about melatonin. So talk to me about the melatonin that you tried. So were you doing like high doses? When were you trying it? 

MI: Yes. When I last worked [the] night shift, I think I’d kind of come to the conclusion that it just didn’t work for me. But this round I was like, well, maybe try higher dose. I had just been taking, I think, three milligrams. Whether that be, I have it in my car and I take it right before I leave for work, you know, and I don’t have a long commute almost, I’ve never had more than like a 20-minute commute. But this round, I paired it with magnesium and then took six milligrams. And I, I don’t know if I really noticed a change. And obviously I added in the magnesium, so. 

DS: Yeah. 

MI: You know, more denominators to, to address. But I don’t think it doesn’t help, but I don’t know that it’s the most beneficial for me. 

DS: Yeah. That’s the thing with the shift work too, is like so much of it’s hit or miss. Some things help some people really well. Sometimes we have to use light therapy. Sometimes we do that anchor sleep stuff, other people melatonin, but low doses. So like three to even five is a moderate dose, but yeah. It can help because what it does is it’s a phase shifter. So it’s helping to change your sleep schedule a little bit, but it’s not necessarily something that’s going to like induce sleepiness and keep you asleep throughout the night because that’s not how it really works.

But for some people it can help. And other people, it sounds like it’s not doing all that much for you, especially when you’re taking it an hour before bed. 

MI: Yes. 

DS: It’s a shame. 

MI: Yes. Yes. 

DS: So I’m curious, what’s it like being up when 90 percent, about 90 percent of the country is probably sleeping. 

MI: Oh, what’s it like? You really learn to bond with your coworkers because they’re the only other, you know, people with their eyes open. If it is a calm evening and my patients are resting and I don’t have a ton of tasks to do, I bring a book. Try to get a few pages in in between my patient’s needs. Or spend time listening to podcasts and doing things that obviously are work appropriate. But for the most part, it’s almost a little lonely. It can be quaint and… 

DS: Yeah? 

MI: I don’t even know. You know, I don’t think it’s nice. It’s not nice, but it’s not the worst thing. And whenever I am looking at doing it only for three months, you’re just kind of like, Oh, get through it. But yeah, the rest of the world is sleeping. I mean, unless you’re in an urban area, you know that the city’s shut down. And if you’re hungry or relying on the food that you brought, instead of being able to like find something from a restaurant or –

DS: Yeah, I have my suspicion, but do you think you’ll always work night shift? 

MI: Oh, absolutely not. Never. 

DS: So is it really you’re choosing it because that’s what’s available for the travel jobs right now? 

MI: Right. Because most people prefer day shift. So if there are openings for day shift as a travel, travel employee, then they’re going to get snagged up. And there’s, you know, a higher, higher supply for people applying for those positions.

DS: Is there anything you wish that everybody understood? Or that you’d like people to know about shift work that you think is just a misnomer? 

MI: It’s not normal. And even for the… even for people who don’t mind it, it’s usually because of the work itself. Because the evenings are a bit slower, the job itself can be calmer. Less going on. And you’ll hear this from most nurses, there’s not management. And so it’s nice to not be [or] feel so micromanaged. So a lot of people enjoy the job itself when it comes to healthcare, and I know there’s other professions that are graveyard and what have you. But I would say, even – everyone that I’ve encountered, even if they don’t struggle with sleep that regularly, or they enjoy the job itself, that we would all agree it’s not, it’s not normal. It’s not the healthiest thing for our bodies. 

DS: Yeah, and I would encourage people, even if wherever you’re working doesn’t have a sleep center attached – because the reality is many people in the world who are working shifts aren’t working in healthcare. There’s so many industries that have this. But if you’re struggling, I do encourage people to seek out a sleep center, talk to someone who is well versed in shift work.

You can go to the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, find people like myself there. And that, like I said, it’s not one size fits all.

Everyone has their needs that they have when it comes to taking care of families and friends and just work and all these things can change. So it’s finding light, light therapy schedules that might work for you. Medication options for some people. Eating at certain regular times. Exercise. And then like we were talking about, finding a sleep schedule that can be anchored somehow as often as possible.

And all those things can help. They might not be that cure all for everyone, but there are things to help manage it for many people. But it sounds like you’re doing what you can and you’re powering through as best you can. 

MI: I am. And you know, I’m thankful and I really do love what I do. And I’m always open to new ideas, whether it’s a new pillow or trying a different, you know, sleep schedule. But for the most part, you, you just push through and hope that it’s not forever. 

DS: Yeah, I think it’s, part of it is, you just, you’re fighting against your circadian rhythm. And so, the more that you can have it set instead of flipping is going to be better for you. But I get the challenges in real life, right? That play. 

And you’re also like, I sleep so much better, not perfect, but on the nights that you have off, that it feels good to do that. But it just makes those daytime sleep episodes so much more challenging. 

MI: I feel like I have it so easy, you know? I, like I said, I don’t have a family and don’t have a significant other I’m living with, you know. A fairly easy, independent, low responsibility person.
So for people who have a parent they’re taking care of along with their own children, I just, man… My heart goes out to those who are sleeping as poorly as I do and trying to make a living. 

DS: Oh my goodness. I wish you the best of luck. It sounds like you’re on the path to trying to figure it out, but it’s, you’re working nights and you’re just trying to stay the course as best you can until you find some day shifts. Correct? 

MI: Correct. Yeah. That’s the goal. 

DS: So I think just wrapping up, what are two pieces of information or actionable advice that you think, for you, when it comes to shift work has been helpful for you? For the, for anyone else who’s like, who’s struggling? 

MI: 100 percent recommend having a room as dark as possible. I know that has been a saving grace. The minute that there’s sunlight poking through, I want to be up and in it and awake there. So I always recommend that. And I try to make sure that that’s happening for me as much as possible, as it can be. 

DS: You turn your phone off? And, like, not have people bother you? 

MI: Yeah. 

DS: Not make appointments as often. Yeah. 

MI: Yes, I have that, I have an alarm that’s got like noise machines, different things. Temperature, which we didn’t touch on. That’s huge. And I mean, even during regular sleep hours, but if it is not cool in the room, and I’m, I would prefer it to be like 60 degrees in the room. Really. I mean, I would take it cold. I’d rather be, you know, bundled up and feel like that. But if that’s, obviously, that’s going to cost you an air conditioning, but if you can somehow have a window open or a fan on you. Those are my two, my two biggest things. It’s temperature and light. And so I know that even here in Southern Oregon, we’ve had some rain recently and the cooler weather. And that’s been so helpful for me during my sleep time.

DS: And then there’s also all this tech too, to help with cooling beds. Like, yeah, like I said before, we’re not sponsored by any [products] but like, Ooler, BedJet. There’s so many different things that are cooling pads, that you can put on your mattress to help cool it, that you can even travel with. 
So things to keep that temperature- I always say you want to keep your bedroom like a cave. 
MI: Yes. 

DS: So especially important during the day. Cool, dark, quiet. 

MI: Yeah. 

DS: Not a lot of distractions. So that’s the one thing. And I think the thing that I was adding in is like thinking about your sleep schedule and not trying to flip it as much as possible and really thinking about anchor sleep periods where you can have some overlap on the days where you do sleep or work night shift versus not.

And for some people, one thing we didn’t mention too, is if you’re someone who is working all different types of shifts, which is even harder for some people to adjust to, and I’m sure you’ve seen that in your time. If there’s any way to work with your administration to work at least rotating shifts. So it’s easier to stay up later than it is to force yourself to go to sleep at all different times.

So maybe you work a week in the morning shift, and then you work an afternoon shift for a week, and then an evening shift, and then overnight. So you work with your body’s biology. But it’s really hard to kind of go all over the place and shift your circadian rhythm. So try to find consistency wherever you can in a world that has no consistency in it when it feels like that at times.

MI: Right. 

DS: Thank you so much for joining us and for being an absolutely wonderful guest. 

MI: I just appreciate your time and yeah. 

DS: Thanks for listening to Sleep Talking with Dr. Shelby, a Sleepopolis original podcast. If you’re not routinely getting a great night’s sleep, remember to follow and subscribe for more sleep talking wherever you get your podcasts.

And for even more sleep tips, visit sleepopolis.com. And you can also visit my Instagram page @sleepdocshelby. 

Today’s episode was produced and edited by Freddie Beckley. Our Head of Content is Alana Nunez. And I’m Dr. Shelby Harris. Until next time, sleep well.