Many shift workers lack enough sleep

Monday, October 15, 2001

Business Today

Businesses and organizations operate around the clock, seven days a week. From factory workers to emergency service personnel to healthcare providers, more people than ever are not working "9 to 5." More than 22 million Americans are shift workers -- a number that grows by 3 percent every year.

Most of those shift workers are not getting enough sleep, according to a Cape Girardeau expert. Sleep deprivation means lower productivity and an increased risk for accidents on the job.

"Shift workers are fighting their natural circadian rhythm," said Cindy Neely, chief technician at the Sleep Well Program at Saint Francis Medical Center. "The natural wake-sleep pattern has us awake during daylight hours and asleep during the night. Changing that pattern can be more difficult than it sounds."

Neely said there are several things shift workers can do to help them get the best possible sleep each day:

-- Develop a regular sleep schedule and stick to it, even on your days off. Make sure your family understands the importance of a strict sleep schedule.

-- Develop a bedtime ritual. That might include eating a light meal, drinking a glass of milk or taking a warm bath before bed. Find activities that are calming.

-- Keep the room cool, but not cold.

-- Eliminate light during sleeping hours. Darken the bedroom and use light-blocking curtains and shades, or wear comfortable eye shades.

-- Block out loud sound by unplugging the phone, disconnecting the doorbell and wearing earplugs. White noise, like a fan or air conditioner, can help keep noise disturbances to a minimum as well.

-- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least five hours prior to bedtime.

-- Don't go to bed too hungry or too full.

-- Don't exercise too close to bedtime. Plan your exercise schedule to give you several hours between exercise and bedtime.

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