Becoming Nocturnal, Part Two: Ways to Stay Awake and Ways to Get to Sleep
I think most of us gravitate toward some kind of snack to accompany the caffeine drink. I’ve worked with a number of candy eaters. I personally stay away from sugar as much as possible. I’m not self-righteous about it. I just don’t like the calories and my teeth are not in great shape. I do, however, take a selection of snacks to space through the night. When my self-control is working well, I take things like fresh grape tomatoes, grapes, oranges, blueberries, etc. I also like jerky, cracker/peanut butter packs, etc. If I take chips, I try to have them bagged into serving sizes or else I will eat way too much. My vices are ramen noodles and vienna sausages. Don’t tell anybody.
Depending on the type of work you do, I think a lot of night workers don’t have a whole lot to do. People who work in care-giving roles like I do have a certain amount of down time during the night when you must be awake in case someone needs you, but you might have finished all your cleaning, cooking ahead, or other tasks. That’s why sleep can be so hard to avoid. One tip I learned is to use the alarm on your phone to wake you back up if you are watching tv or something and feel like you might drift off. I set mine to go off in 10 or 15 minutes sometimes, and that has helped me avoid really falling to sleep. If you do drift off for 5 minutes and the alarm wakes you, it can feel really refreshing!
Now, for getting enough sleep during the daytime. I’m 58 years old, and the plain truth is that middle aged women often have troubles with insomnia. Before I started working, I found myself struggling with sleep and decided I would do what it took to learn to sleep and get enough sleep. I started by routinely taking diphenhydramine at night (aka Benadryl or Sominex, etc.) I decided sleep was important enough to take something. At the time, I was using supplements more than I do now, and found that certain herb teas were good, such as lemon balm and chamomile. Favorite helpful herbs vary from person to person. I didn’t care for melatonin at that time.
Over a year or two, I taught myself to sleep and weaned myself off the diphenhydramine so that I was sleeping adequately without helps every night. Of course, when I went to graveyard shift, all that went to blazes. But I did gain some skills in relaxation that help now, so here is a run down of some of what I do to get adequate sleep now.
First, I start trying to slow down on the caffeine about 2-4 hours before my shift ends. That’s usually around 5 or 6am. Like I said, I like morning, and even when I’ve been up all night, I still feel a refreshing blast if I experience sunrise. Plus the job duties start picking up then, so it’s easy to stay awake without more caffeine. Instead, I start drinking water.
Then, when I get home I change into sleeping clothes. I’m a night gown or soft shirt and pants type of person. Never did pajamas much, but it’s imperative to get the binding undergarments off, if you know what I mean. This would be a good time for a shower, but my feet hurt so bad at the end of a shift that I can’t stand the thought of being on them in the shower. Plus I don’t like going to bed with my head wet. But that’s just me. A shower or bath is definitely helpful for relaxing enough to sleep. And if you hate a wet head like I do, they do still make shower caps! I have one that I use from time to time when I just can’t face having my head wet. But I digress. (Do brush your teeth, though, and a little face cream is nice, too.)
Once in sleeping clothes, I take diphenhydramine and melatonin. I have experimented with dosages and forms. The best diphenhydramine source I’ve found is ZZZ-quel. The store brands are ok, but check the label and make sure it has the alcohol. Some of the knock-off brands don’t. Also, some of the knock-off brands taste absolutely terrible.
The melatonin dosage I’m doing right now is 3mg., only because that is the size of pills the kids bought and were sitting around. I really think that is kind of high. I was cutting them in half, but it got too tedious so I take a whole one.
I don’t like messing with making a cup of herb tea and I don’t like taking the time to drink it, so I don’t do that, but I would like to start leaning more on chamomile, passion flower, valerian, or lemon balm, and not so much on the diphenhydramine and melatonin. So that is a goal, but not happening now.
Aroma-therapy is a great adjunct to sleep promotion. Try neroli if you can find it. (It can be really expensive.) Lavender is good, too. Essential oil people have blends and products you might like. I like a little fresh twig of lavender if I can get it and a few drops of neroli just sprinkled on my pillow.
I’ve started rubbing my feet with a little essential oil or something. I used to “sell” (“buy” is more like it!) DoTerra and they have a product called Deep Blue Rub which is really helpful for aching muscles. I’m sure Young Living has something similar. I’ve started using a tiny bit of the Deep Blue on my feet and I think it helps. It’s also good on aching shoulders, neck, or low back.
Room darkening is really good. Probably essential. My room is not as dark as I’d like, but I do have solid fabric curtains up that block out quite a bit. An eye mask is good, too. I found mine at CVS, but don’t always use it because it is kind of a hassle, plus I like to read myself to sleep, but more of that in a minute. I also like a fan going to block out extraneous noise. I actually have three fans going in my room now.