How can I sleep well on a split shift?
December 18, 2003 1:32 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get a good night's sleep? The newspaper I work at recently went to a crazy schedule, so I now work a split shift. My body hates it because it's used to a constant 8 hours a night. How can I trick my brain into being well rested? And what role do powernaps have in all of this?
posted by Happydaz to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
I've no answer for you on a good night's sleep ("Have not had one in sometime myself" he said, glancing at the clock knowingly...)

I can attest to the power nap though. My favorite flavor starts with relaxing every fiber of my being. I stay prone until I feel my brain shut down. (It's hard to describe but you know it when you feel it.) Any longer than that and I am a basketcase.

I've not needed one of those naps in a while as I am now running on adrenalin and caffeine. That is NOT the best way to get a good night's sleep. (It also does not help to be about 350 feet from one of the east coast's busiest freight rail corridors, but that's another story.)
posted by Dick Paris at 3:18 AM on December 18, 2003

I regularly 'shift' my sleep cycle, with work travel and my second job as a DJ which exclusively takes place at night...I have perfected a way of getting to sleep when required, without drugs or whatever.

Firstly - always try and do this in bed...its really helps to be in a traditional sleeping place.

Then what I do - is develop a trigger for sleeping - a nice CD, or audio book passage or a pleasant sound, and for a few times I persevere getting to sleep with this, really relaxing - slowing down.

I then find that after a few tries - my body automatically wants to go to sleep when it hears that sound...

For example...I work generally 9 till 5, but at the weekend I DJ at night, and leave home at 9.30pm on a Saturday night, for a full night I always sleep at 4.30ish on the Saturday afternoon (a one hour nap keeps me prepared for the night out...) - so I always go to sleep listening to the soccer results on the radio...never fails me now...
posted by mattr at 4:20 AM on December 18, 2003

I'm a journalist too, and my sleep patterns have been shot to hell for years. The only thing that keeps me sorted are Sundays. I just sleep all sunday. Nothing gets to wake me up, and I don't make appointments for earlier than 5pm. Usually I'll get up at 3pm earliest.

The rest week it doesn't matter, can get past on 6hrs or less a night, usually reading until I zonk out, but those Sundays prop me up.

Of course, we're drastically shortening our lifespans doing this. Nearly as bad as cigarettes, so I heard.
posted by bonaldi at 5:16 AM on December 18, 2003

I find reading sends me right off, however frizzled I am. Normally within a dozen or so pages. I always used to listen to some nice repetitive music, something Stereolabby or Boards of Canada, that always used to help. I don't think powernapping is all it's cracked out to be though, although if you're knackered from a Friday night, a couple of hours kip in the afternoon may set you up for a Friday night, but as many times as it worked I found I worked up frazzled and confoosed. And I agree, have at least one big proper sleep a week.
posted by boneybaloney at 5:19 AM on December 18, 2003

I don't know the answer to getting a good nights sleep but I know that if I don't have a break from work or whatever else is on my mind I won't have a good night sleep at all. My pesky brain will keep interrupting my relaxation. So I make it a point to try and have some down time before I try and sleep.
posted by substrate at 6:38 AM on December 18, 2003

I would check out some relaxation self-hypnosis resources. Once you get good at this, you can pretty much banish all tension from your body in a minute flat and center your mind, both of which will help you doze off.

I'm sorry, I know an link isn't all that helpful. I've been doing this since high school, and I learned from books and stapled-together photocopies.

Actually, if you don't want to make your own recording, or learn to do without a recording, you could also check P2P, but I have no idea what quality you'll find. Last time I tired that I came up with something that sounded like a cross between the band Yes and The Exorcist. Good luck!
posted by scarabic at 7:46 AM on December 18, 2003 [1 favorite]

usually a split shift means your working a shift that overlaps two of the normal 8 hour shifts, like 10-7 would be a split shift. Are you one some other shift that you're not able to get a consecutive 8 hours of sleep?
posted by rhyax at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2003

Melatonin works well for me.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:20 AM on December 18, 2003

Rhyaz, a split shift is more commonly one shift split into two pieces and separated by a period of time, such as 8-12 and 4-8, which equals one eight-hour shift. Your definition is also sometimes used, however.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2003

My split shift general means I work from about 8 a.m. (ugh) to noon or 1, then come back in during the evenings and often stay until 3 or 4 a.m. So yes, two shifts. I have no problem getting 8 CONSECUTIVE hours of sleep, except my split shift is anything but consistent (that's what covering local government means) so some nights I get to bed at 11 p.m., sometimes 5 a.m.

Gottabefunky: What is this melatonin you speak of?
Bonaldi: I have a goal to live past 30, but the caffeine lifestyle is fun for a time and there's good coffee to be had around these parts.
Scarabic: Once again, you prove yourself the master of 1000s of bits of useless information :-) I 'll check out self-hypnosis, though the idea seems more than a little strange.
Dick: How long is a good power nap? I heard somewhere if it's beyond 15 minutes your body starts to actually sleep and it makes you worse off than if you didn't sleep at all.

Oh, and I've also heard if you get less than 3 hours of sleep in a sitting, it's really not worth it and you should just stay away (No time for REM or some such mumbo-jumbo.)
posted by Happydaz at 10:08 AM on December 18, 2003

I college I had to do my sleeping in two hour shifts because of an odd schedule one quarter (well, odd schedule and a ton of studying). It wasn't so bad on the days I could get a partial night's sleep -- four hours overnight, then two hours mid-day, usually.

I had no trouble dreaming in the short shifts, and I found it to be more refreshing than 30 minute naps. But it may have been just me.
posted by me3dia at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2003

I'm not sure exactly what melatonin IS, but I know it works extremely well for me, with no side effects (for me). All I need is half of one pill and I am sleepy as a kitten, and I feel fantastic in the morning. I try and reserve it for situations of extreme need, though -- I don't like to rely on anything for sleep, being afraid to become dependent on it.
posted by jennyjenny at 10:32 AM on December 18, 2003

I'm usually down for a power nap for about 5-10 minutes -- that varies with the individual. Too long a nap leaves me feeling like shite. (My wife loves that groggy feeling and slow wake-up from a long nap. Go figure.)
posted by Dick Paris at 11:52 AM on December 18, 2003

yuck, i'm glad split shift doesn't mean that in my field ;)
posted by rhyax at 10:12 PM on December 18, 2003

Rhyax: True. But a split shift for me the other night also meant being paid to go and review Return of the King. So it has its good sides :-) Thanks for the sleep suggestions folks. I'll just take a few melatonin and ... zzz.
posted by Happydaz at 11:30 PM on December 18, 2003

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