Simple procedures can help night-shift workers adjust

By Tom Nordlie • Published: March 18th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Working the graveyard shift has some drawbacks.

It can be hard to stay alert during the wee hours. And the schedule puts you out of sync with family and friends who don’t work nights.

But according to a study published in the journal Sleep, a few simple procedures may enable graveyard shifters to be well-rested and productive, yet also have free time during daylight hours.

In the study, twenty-four healthy adults were divided into two groups and put on a simulated night-shift routine.

Those in the experimental group were put on a specific sleep schedule, wore dark sunglasses when outside in daylight, and were exposed to bright light in fifteen-minute increments at work.

The goal was to adjust the volunteers’ internal clocks so they’d feel most tired in the early morning, after work ended.

The control group worked under normal room light and had no set sleep schedule.

The results? Members of the experimental group all got about the same amount of sleep. They also performed well on tests of mental alertness that were administered during work.

Members of the control group got varying amounts of sleep, and their test performance was impaired toward the end of their night shifts.

Considering that the experimental procedures were inexpensive and easy to use, this seems like an idea worth exploring further.

After all, many people on the graveyard shift have jobs involving public safety, health care and transportation.

When those folks are well-rested, everyone else can sleep a little easier.