Working in the care industry is incredibly rewarding but it can also be incredibly demanding, especially at this time of year.
This means that prioritising your health and wellbeing is more important than ever right now.
One of the biggest challenges is to make sure that you are getting enough sleep. This is not always easy when you are working long, often anti-social hours. You may find that you are having to rely on daytime sleep.
Daytime sleep is less efficient than nighttime sleep as you’re constantly battling against disturbance – such as light, noise etc – and challenging your body’s natural circadian clock.
It is therefore vital to understand the importance of sleep and how to make the most of it.
Lack of quality sleep can lead to all sorts of issues from sleepiness and fatigue in the workplace to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries.
It is also linked to obesity because when we are tired, we often make poorer food choices and are less active. Stress levels are higher which can also lead to emotional and overeating.
Strategies to help deal with the combination of shift work and added Christmas stress are essential.
Create the right environment
A good, well-supportive mattress and a pleasant temperature, 16-18 degrees Celsius is usually about right, are conducive to a restful sleep. Your mattress should be firm yet comfortable and you should have bedding that helps to maintain your body temperature.
Blackout blinds can help to ensure that your room isn’t too bright and a sunshine alarm clock can help to regulate your body clock.
The nature of your role may mean that you have different sleep times throughout the week, you should therefore create a routine that doesn’t rely on timings.
Avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before sleep and make sure that you unwind properly, no matter what time you go to bed. If you have a late shift, have a short nap (no more than 40 minutes) 2 hours before work to help boost your energy levels.
Always try and aim for the same amount of sleep – 7-9 hours is optimal, avoid sleeping more on days off – a consistent routine is key.
Try to avoid playing games, using your phone or watching television before bed and keep the lights low and curtains closed an hour beforehand. This will help with your natural melatonin production – this is the hormone that helps us get to sleep.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or a warm bath are all good habits to establish in the run-up to bedtime.
Two hours before bed: Avoid a heavy meal within this time, and also avoid strenuous exercise.
If it is daytime, wearing sunglasses on your way home will stop the daylight from diminishing your natural melatonin production.
One hour before bed: Start your wind-down routine to relax your body. Avoid any work or blue light (phones, computers, TVs etc)
If you require a snack, have something light but satisfying like peanut butter on granary toast, Greek yogurt and fruit or some oatcakes and cheese.
A warm bath or a shower will also help your body produce melatonin.
Even if you feel exhausted after work, try and go through this process to ensure you get the quality sleep your body requires.
If you are restless and can’t sleep, repeat the process in order to avoid your stress levels rising.
For more information and tips on how to make the most of your sleep, please read my article here.