Still More Graveyard Shift Survival Ideas

Getting Enough Rest and Sleep Between Shifts

getting to sleep

For our purposes, let’s just assume most people need an average of 7 or 8 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. If you work 12 hour shifts like I do, that means you only have 12 hours to do what you need to do at home, including any commute, as well as getting all your sleep. How that works for you will be individual to you, of course, but here’s some of how it seems to work best for me.

Some people need to unwind a little before going right to bed, and sometimes I do too. The problem is if you take too long, you might cut your sleeping time short. I work 12 hour shifts, so I don’t have all day to relax. I tend to think in terms of hours and calculate how many hours I have till I have to be back at work. I don’t do routine well. I wish I did, but I can’t ever remember what my routines are, and if I write them down, I find myself rebelling against them, so it helps me more to think in terms of goals. The goal of 7 or 8 hours in bed, eyes closed, hopefully sleeping most of that time, then time to get a shower and get dressed, pack my snacks and maybe run by a store before work. For best results, I try to be in bed with my Kindle no later than 1 hour from the time I got off, and earlier is better.

But that’s what is working for me.

Ok, I’d like to mention at this time that I am married, but living like a single person because my husband is in a nursing home. If he were here and functioning properly, my methods would be different. I do have family members I live with and like to visit with them at least a little most days. If one of them is up when I get home, I will sit and chat a few moments usually. But I don’t let myself take too long at that because I want to get to sleep.

If you had a spouse at home who was up and maybe home but on a different schedule, this would be a nice time to work in some marital fellowship, if you know what I mean. Good for the marriage and helpful for getting to sleep. Just a thought.

Now, to get to sleep. I personally like to go to sleep with my Kindle. Sleep experts tend to discourage reading yourself to sleep. I find it helpful. (My Kindle is an old one and I don’t use it real well as far as going online with it. If I had a newer one with colors and bells and whistles and touch screen, etc., I’d probably find a boring old paperback.) Everyone has to experiment and find what works. One thing I would discourage is reading a novel before sleeping. I read spiritual stuff, theology, philosophy, self-help, etc. If it is too well-written it can keep me up, like if it makes me laugh out loud. Some non-fiction is pretty well-written! Watch that. It’s best if it’s kinda dull, like St. Francis’ rules for his monks.

My theory is that a dull book engages your mind enough to keep it from over-thinking. If you get into the book, it’s going to stimulate your mind and it could be harder to drift off. Do remember at this time you are extremely tired, very comfortable, and have substances in your system designed to relax you. My little bit of reading is just to keep me from thinking.

I have another tip for falling asleep. If the book isn’t doing it, I do some progressive relaxation, yoga type stuff. I’ve played around with relaxation for most of my life. Here’s a mental exercise I think I invented that helps me a lot. It especially helps if I’m having trouble getting comfortable. I imagine my body as a group of individual cells, and imagine that there is a massive gravitational pull coming from the center of the earth, pulling on each of those cells. They, in turn, are shifting down into position, like grains of sand. This means that it doesn’t matter if a part of my body is uncomfortable, because the cells are just shifting down sitting on top of each other. I don’t know if I am explaining that well, but it helps me relax all those parts that are wanting to fuss about their position.

Now for staying asleep. That is easier said than done. I find that I usually wake up about two hours after I go to bed. I get up and go to the bathroom. Then back to bed on the other side, eyes closed, and the shifting sand thing if necessary. I usually go back to sleep for about three more hours.

Now, I’d like to offer my opinion that a session of 7 or 8 hours of broken up sleep can be just as restful as 7 or 8 straight hours. There has been some interesting research on this idea, and I think the evidence is that I am right. Anyway, that second time I get up, I may do a few things. I might eat a meal with my family and/or get my shower at that time. I often get the mail and look at it, and I might turn on the computer and check Facebook, but I don’t let myself get too active because I still need 2 or 3 hours more rest. I think usually I stay off the computer.

I like to be dressed and ready for work except for my shoes by 6 or 7pm. I go to work at 10pm. I like to lay down and either read myself to sleep again or do the sand-cell-gravity thing and get another nap. I have an alarm set for 9 or 9:15pm usually, and feel real refreshed when I wake up from that nap.

 

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