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Don’t Wake Daddy

By Lauren Smith

Don't Wake Daddy

In my childhood, ‘don’t wake daddy’ wasn’t a game we played but a request to respect my father’s sleep schedule.

I remember when my father started working at a large manufacturing plant. Like many large factories, it operated around the clock, and that meant shift work. I understand now why he took the job: we were a young family and shift work tends to pay better than many 9-to-5 jobs. But as a young child I didn’t understand why my father had to sleep during the day and I certainly didn’t want to be quiet.

Fast-forward 20-odd years; now the man in my life is also a shift worker. The cycle continues.

While I will never fully understand the exhaustion from working on your feet for 12-hour shifts or switching over from day shift to night shift, I have gained a substantial amount of respect for shift workers and the challenges they face with their atypical work schedule.

The Safety Factor

When I used to think of shift workers, I would think of the person sleeping irregular hours and being a zombie after a 12-hour shift. But in the realm of workplace safety, shift work has an entirely new meaning.

Shift work has continued to increase exponentially since the late 1990s. Non-traditional work schedules have become the daily (and nightly) grind for approximately one quarter of working Canadians (aged 19-64). Working evening, night and rotating shifts can lead to fatigue. Studies show that working when you’re tired can increase your risk of injury. Approximately 6-7 per cent of workplace injuries in Canada can be attributed to the higher risk of injury associated with shift work.

Sleep Strategies

If you are thinking the benefits ($$) outweigh the costs (Zzz) of shift work, there are a few things you can do to help prevent the risk of injury caused by fatigue:

Get enough shut-eye: The best way to prevent fatigue is to make sure you go to bed early enough to allow enough time for a decent sleep before your shift. (The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours a night for adults).

Create a bedtime ritual: Prepare your body for dreamland by developing a relaxing routine that lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep (e.g., having a bath or reading a book).

Wear ear plugs, use white noise machines or install sound-absorbing curtains in your room to drown out disruptive sounds: If you’re a light sleeper, these strategies can be particularly helpful for preventing a disruptive sleep. Light blocking curtains can also help when you need to sleep during daylight hours.

Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry: This one’s tricky because most shift-workers I know are starving by the time they get home. If you really need to eat after your shift, have a light snack that isn’t high in sugars or fats before you hit the hay.

Avoid stressful activities before bed: Your brain will have trouble shutting down if it’s pumped full of stress hormones when you’re trying to relax and fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine five hours before bedtime: This one is a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s hard to resist a hot cup of coffee when you’re trying to stay awake during the last few hours of your shift. Instead, try having an ice cold glass of water and doing a little bit of stretching—it’ll help refresh you for the remainder of your shift.

Avoid alcohol on days/nights when you’re working: A nightcap may help you doze off, but alcohol (especially large amounts) negatively affects sleep quality (particularly REM sleep—the deepest and most vital part of the sleep cycle). Even if you get a full night’s sleep before your shift, you won’t feel well rested.

And lastly, if you have children or plan to have children, pray that you have a partner/parent/friend who can remove them from the house while you’re trying to sleep in between night shifts.


One Response to “Don’t Wake Daddy”

  1. […] for family moments. But we at Heads Up know that getting enough sleep is important. (Check out Lauren’s and Josie’s blog posts to see just how important sleep is!) Develop a sleep strategy so that […]

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