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Techniques for reducing shift stress

Quality Sleep after the shift
Although this is obvious some shift workers don't understand that there are simple things that can be done to encourage quality sleep.

- Quietness, no noisy children, lawn mowers or air conditioners etc.
- Maybe sound proofing the bedroom.
- Darkness, using special light proof curtains.
- Temperature control, neither too hot or too cold.
- Humidity control, so that it is comfortable for sleeping
- A comfortable bed, suitable for the shift worker
- Sleeping aids like blindfolds and ear plugs.
- Going to bed with an empty bladder, visit the washroom before bed.

Extra Exercise
Studies have shown that extra exercise does help shift stress. But it is hard to get excited about doing more exercise when you feel "stuffed" from working shifts.

Support from Family and Friends
With irritability one of the leading characteristics of shift workers, an understanding partner and family does help. Especially if they are able to manage this difficult behaviour. Many people just react without thinking and this can inflame an already difficult situation. Some consultants offer training for family and partners on how to handle "stressed out" shift workers.

Drinking fluids
Due to the slowing down of the body functions at night coupled with the usually lower temperatures, fluid intake is usually reduced by shift workers, when working night shifts. This can cause mild dehydration. Therefore an adequate intake of fluids during night can stop dehydration. But too much fluid intake can cause an increased desire to urinate while sleeping after the sleep. Trial and error is the best method to find the right balance required.

A good Shift Work Schedule
There are many consultants available to advise on the actual shift work schedule. Studies have shown this is an important area and changes to a shift work schedule (if it is already a bad one) can make a dramatic improvement to the health of shift workers.

Shift Ease
This is a safe method for countering shift stress, in the form of easy-to-take tablets. Being a food supllement that only conatins natural vitamins and minerals, Shift Ease has no side effects and is compatible with other medications. It has no connection with the controversial hormone melatonin. Shift Ease is available in Europe.

This is a controversial and complex treatment for shift stress. One study using Melatonin for jet lag showed it made jet lag worse! This means the dosage is important and if not taken correctly could make the shift stress worse instead of better. The fact that it has been taken off the open market in Europe, Canada and Australia indicates concerns about its side affects. Recent studies have also shown that melatonin, "fools" the body and does not actually reset the disrupted circadian rhythms as originally thought. A full description of melatonin effects is available from this link. Melatonin information.

Sleeping Pills
Some shift workers use sleeping pills to try to alleviate shift stress. They do have a down side. The shift worker can become addicted to them. Its true they increase the amount of sleep but they don't fix the problem of shift stress or increase the alertness of workers during the next shift. In fact some have a "hung over" effect making the shift worker drowsy during the next shift.

Bright Light Therapy
Bright light boxes which deliver strong light are used by some to reset their time clock and once we now more about light therapy it may be used in night work situations. Some shift workers find when they are finishing a series of night shifts and are about to go back day shifts spending as much time outside in bright sunshine helps. They find combining being outside with exercise most effective.