Good quality sleep is essential to keep us working at our best. This is even more true, not less, when faced with a challenge on the scale of the coronavirus pandemic.
When we are under pressure, and become stressed and worried, being able to rest, relax, and to sleep well becomes more difficult. Many of us will find it harder to get to sleep, to stay asleep and to get good quality sleep.
It’s important to remember that how we are feeling, and how our minds and bodies are responding, is a normal response to an extraordinary situation. Where it isn’t possible to change the circumstances we find ourselves dealing with, it becomes even more important to look at strategies to maintain the best quality sleep we can.
Good sleep habits
Try to keep a consistent bed time and wake time
Get as much natural light as you can, especially first thing in the morning
Restrict use of electronic devices in the hour before sleep
Limit caffeine use, particularly after midday
A hot bath or shower just before bedtime can help encourage sleep
Write a to-do list for tomorrow, so that it’s out of your head
Tips for nightshift workers
Preparing for your night shift
Maintain a good core sleep routine (see tips above)
‘Bank’ sleep in the 24 hours before starting nights; have a long lie, or try to have an afternoon nap
Exercise in the morning may help encourage napping in the natural circadian ‘siesta time’ in the early afternoon
Ensure you are well fed and well hydrated
During the night shift
Aim to stick to a consistent routine during each shift
Work as a team to provide effective cover for breaks
Consider use of ‘bleep filtering’ systems to minimise interruption to team members on breaks
Avoid high calorie/high fat/high carbohydrate foods—night shift calories DO count, and contribute significantly to increased risks of impaired glucose tolerance and cardiovascular disease of working night shifts
Try to maintain your normal eating patterns/times as much as possible when working nights
Aim to minimise eating between 00:00 and 06:00 where possible, and when you do eat/snack choose healthier satisfying options (eg, soups/ wholegrain sandwiches/yoghurt/fruit/salads/nuts, etc)
Keep well hydrated; carry a water bottle and drink regularly
Maximise exposure to bright light in non-clinical areas
Your patients need their sleep—keep light and noise disruption in clinical areas to a minimum
Your breaks are essential
Use caffeine carefully
Watch the 4 am dip. This is when both you and your patients are at their lowest physiological ebb. Take time to double check all critical calculations in particular
With thanks to Dr Mike Farquhar for sharing this information for NHS colleagues.
Useful fatigue fact sheets