4 Ways You Can Hack Your Sleep Schedule for Odd Work Hours

Posted on - in Planning & Organization, Work Productivity

There is an awful lot of advice out there about sleep. While much of it is well-researched and very helpful it pretty much all has one thing in common – it’s for people who work regular hours. Those lucky folk who get to lie in until 8am in the morning before heading off to their office.

A whole host of people aren’t as fortunate to work such ‘normal’ hours. Many of you have jobs that demand irregular or ‘odd’ hours.   

There is no point in recommending to someone who works night shifts not to go to bed too late, or to pay attention to their natural circadian rhythms.

So what can those of you work odd hours do to ensure you are still getting sufficient rest over the course of a day? Well read on below and I will give you a few tips on how you can hack your sleep cycle to ensure you are still fit enough to function.

Stick to a routine, even if it’s a weird one

The body adores routine and just because you work odd hours and your schedule is a little different to the majority doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try and keep it as constant as possible.

This means keeping a regular bedtime, even if that bedtime is 7am instead of 11pm. Once you’ve got a regular bedtime, you can workout when you should be eating, giving yourself enough time for proper digestion.

It can be tempting to do things such as running errands in the morning before you head to bed but try to avoid this temptation. Keeping a routine will mean you are more likely to fall asleep promptly and stay asleep when you do.

Keep it dark, use blackout blinds

If you work weird hours, chances are you are going to be sleeping when the sun is shining. This can of course play absolutely havoc with your brain. The brain has evolved to associate daylight with being alert and awake. Unfortunately, this can mean even though you have worked a solid night shift and are dog-tired, you might still find yourself unable to settle down when your head hits the pillow.

Give your confused caveman brain a helping hand and make sure your home is as dark as can be. If you share your living space with others, friends, family etc, communicate with them and ask them to keep blinds drawn etc until you are tucked up in bed.

Above all, ensure your sleeping space is absolutely 100% pitch black, invest in some good blackout blinds and test them out. If they are legit you shouldn’t even be able to see you hand in front of your eyes.

While you’re at it, ensure also that the bed you are sleeping on is suited for your body type.

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Adopt a polyphasic sleep pattern

Depending on how odd your odd hours are, you might find that the regular old system of monophasic sleep (doing all your sleeping in one block) just doesn’t cut it for you. Don’t despair completely there are other options.

A growing community of individuals swear by the rejunative powers of biphasic or polyphasic sleep, this means breaking their daily sleep into two or more chunks. It can be thought of as harnessing the power of the power nap to its full potential.

Some polyphasic sleepers still aim to target an overall goal of eight hours over the course of the day, others believe that using well timed napping they can survive on much less, as little as five hours in some cases.

As with anything in life what works for one person may be completely useless for another. However what polyphasic sleepers can teach us is that there is no normal.

Limit your caffeine intake

For shift workers and those of you who work unusual hours, caffeine can sometimes seem like your bestest best friend in the world. I’m not about to suggest you avoid the good stuff completely. However, I am going to suggest that you have to take extra special care about how much caffeine you consume and when you do so.

Caffeine remains in the body for a lot longer than most of us thing, over six hours in fact. That means if your shift it scheduled to finish at 6 am and you hope to be home in bed and asleep by 7 you really should be having your last cup of steaming joe and midnight.

It can seem like you need that cup of coffee to get through the night but in truth it is often just a routine we get into. 3am is break time, so we have a coffee. Instead, why not replace your cup of coffee with something else that will give you a boost of energy but not be so potent, such as a banana?

So there you have it, four little things to think about the next time you are lying in bed unable to sleep, wondering what to do and cursing your odd working hours.

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Sarah Cummings

Hi, I’m Sarah. I studied at UCLA in sunkissed California, where I met my lovely colleagues at The Sleep Advisor. We’re passionate about all things sleep-related and strongly believe that we would all be a little happier and healthier with a few more hours sleep a night!

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1 Comment

  1. Pamela Auble

    I had an “aha!” moment a couple of years ago when I was working with a Life Coach: I didn’t have to “do” sleep the way that most people do. I’m a natural night owl and I pink-puffy-heart-love taking naps. I’m most productive in the wee hours (as I comment here at almost 3:00 in the morning!); since I run my own business and work from home, it doesn’t make sense to force myself to follow “normal” sleep schedules.

    It was honestly a life-changing realization.

    2 years ago

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