Sleep Awareness Week (10 – 16 March)
Sleep Awareness Week is an annual initiative designed to increase understanding of just how important sleep is as well as the effect it has on our health, wellbeing and safety. For people working in the resources industry, this is especially important, given the prevalence of rosters and long shifts, coupled with the high level of potential danger which workplace fatigue could result in. Given this, it is a timely reminder that exercising self-care extends to properly managing your sleep, in the interest of maintaining your alertness when on the job and ultimately ensuring the safety of not just yourself, but those around you as well.
For shift or roster-based workers maintaining a good pattern of sleep can be challenging, however the good news is that recent studies have shown that it doesn’t matter when you are sleeping, so long as the actual number of hours sleep you get is sufficient. Studying 35 operators, researchers found that regardless of whether the operator was working day or night shifts, the total hours that individuals slept was the factor which determined whether or not they showed signs of fatigue. The individuals who slept for fewer than six hours demonstrated markedly slower reaction times than their well-rested colleagues.
To get a healthy sleep and remain alert throughout the day, doctors recommended you get at least eight hours of sleep per day. This may not always be easy for workers with an atypical roster structure which means you need to do everything you can to ensure the sleeping time you have counts. Here are some tips to help you get to sleep and stay asleep:
- Avoid stimulants like coffee, cola, energy drinks and nicotine at least four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol at least four hours before going to sleep – while alcohol may appear to help you fall asleep, it actually causes disturbances later in your sleep cycle. It can also have a double negative effect of causing you to wake and then finding harder to get back to sleep.
- Train your brain to associate your bed with sleep only. That means no watching television, playing computer games or even reading in bed. Artificial light sources such as white room lights, computer or phone screens can disrupt the natural rhythm of the body and never allow you to adjust your roster schedule.
- White-noise can often help you fall asleep. The hum of a fan or the drone of an air-conditioner are effective ways to block out external noise and give you something to focus on.
- If you work odd hours and are coming home from night shift, close the blinds, wear sunglasses and try to stay in darkness to convince your body it is time to sleep.
- If you’re feeling tired and you have a shift or long commute coming up, take a 20 to 40-minute nap to help with alertness.
Think about your safety and that of your mates. Plan to sleep well and give your body the rest it needs.