World Sleep Day 2019

Today is World Sleep Day and I thought this would be a great opportunity to look at sleep and shift work, and the implications of one on the other.


Shift work is general described as working outside of normal hours, in particular, working during times when we would normally be expected to be asleep.


Why does shift work make sleeping so difficult?


Firstly, shift work can result in you sleeping against your body’s natural clock. Everyone has an in-built biological rhythm which keeps you alert during daylight hours. Sleeping during the day makes it harder to drift off and get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.


Secondly, shift work often involves irregular schedules. Regular wake-up times produce hormones which act as signals for the body to sleep or stay awake. The more often you switch your schedule, the harder it is for your body to adjust.


Lastly, shift work means that you may be sleeping out of sync with everyone else. Staying asleep with the noises of daytime hustle and bustle around you can seem impossible. Family and personal relationships may also mean that sleep is not a priority.


What can be done to help?


Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you are still awake after 20 minutes, get up and do something calming, such as read a book, draw or write in a journal.


Avoid blue light. The short-wave blue light from computers, TV and phone screen supresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. It is important to avoid screen time for two hours before bed.


Try and set a schedule. Establishing a regular sleep schedule every day of the week can help to set your ‘biological clock’. Don’t lie in more than an hour, even on days off.


It is important that you use your bed only for sleep (and sex). If your body learns to associate your bed with sleep, you’ll start to feel tired as soon as you lie down. Using your phone, watching TV or sending emails in bed can have the opposite effect.


Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, which can affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep, even if they’re used earlier in the day. Caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours, and even decaf coffee contain some caffeine.


Participating in exercising and health eating can lead to better sleep. Avoid strenuous exercise and greasy or heavy food for two hours before going to bed.


What about night shift?


On average night shift workers sleep for 2 hours less than the average adult. This sleep debt puts shift workers at more risks of accidents and increases long term health risks, such as increasing the risk of strokes, diabetes and dementia, as well as stress and depression.


There are several things which can be done to limit the impact of working nights on your sleep.


Before night shift:


  1. First day off after working nights can be when you’re most out of phase. It may be helpful to stay awake until you are tired and then schedule a brief block of sleep 2-4 hours.
  2. The jury is out on whether naps are beneficial or not. Some state that they interrupt your sleep cycle, where others believe naps can be revitalising. When napping it is important to remember that sleeping for more that 30-40 minutes can result in your body entering deep sleep. Deep sleep is great for helping to reduce a sleep debt,  however, it can take up to an hour to become fully alert again, so allow time to wake up afterwards.
  3. Most people can cope with a 2-3 hours shift in their sleep-wake cycle. If you have a few days before you start night shift, try to gradually taper your sleep and wake times towards the new schedule.
  4. Stay awake until a near normal bedtime to sync back into a regular cycle.


Staying alert during work:


  1. Seek out bright light before and during the early part of a night shift. Even if work areas need to have dim lighting, break areas should still be well lit.
  2. A mid shift power nap of up to 30 minutes is more effective than coffee for improving alertness. Of course, this is not always practical.
  3. If you have the same shift times for a couple of days, eat meals and snacks at the same time each day to promote regular body cycles.


After night shift:


  1. Wear sunglasses on the journey home – your sleep cycle reacts to sunlight.
  2. Following the same routine to prepare for bed on day or night shifts. This will encourage pattern recognition and get the body ready for sleep.
  3. If you live in a noisy environment, look at soundproofing your bedroom with double glazing, carpets blackout blinds and heavy curtains and even wall insulation. Ear plugs could also help to preserve your peace and quiet.


Regardless of when your shift is, either day or night, remember that sleep can be flexible, and it is important to find a pattern that suits you.

International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day let’s take action to support women who might be struggling.

International Women's Day infographic

Good to talk

1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues at some point during their life. Starting a conversation can be difficult. Discover the do’s and don’ts of broaching the subject.

good to talk infographic

Setting Goals

As the thrill of New Year has passed, you may be feeling like you’re stuck in a limbo; you haven’t achieved your New Year’s resolutions yet and neither have you abandoned them completely. Typically, we find ourselves setting goals that are not attainable and have no real time-frame, so we often give up on them as January passes. Psychologists believe that our goals should be S.M.A.R.T1:








This year, only 1 in 5 people have make a New Years resolution 2. If you’re one of those people that don’t make any New Years goal, or find it difficult to maintain one, here are some tips on how to help you set yourself goals and maintain them.


Step 1 – Check in with your motivations and ask yourself, why do you want to achieve this goal? If you find that your are struggling to come up with a ‘Why’, you might struggle to stick with your goal! One common resolution that people tend to set is to stay active throughout the year. Here are some of the reasons why this goal is important:


Being physically active can result in several long-term health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing depression by 30%3. Research also suggests that exercise can act as a buffer for cognitive decline and lower the risk of suffering from dementia in later life.


It is recommended that you should exercise for 150 minutes per week so that you benefit from long-term implications of exercise; this would equate to 30 minutes five times a day. In order to achieve this you could aim to walk/cycle to work throughout February. Alternatively, if you don’t like the cold, challenge yourself to try a new sport for the next four weeks. Make sure you pick something that you feel able to do and remember to ask yourself, what are trying to gain from this? Exercise can also produce immediate benefits too! Research suggests that walking for 15 to 30 minutes a day can help boost your mood. Likewise, it can help make you feel more awake and calmer 4.


Step 2 – Define what S.M.A.R.T goal is and write it down! By ensuring that you develop S.M.A.R.T. goals, you are less likely to give up on them and maintain a positive mindset that is needed to keep you motivated.


Step 3 – Make yourself accountable to someone – tell a friend or family what your goals are. Alternatively, buddy up with someone and join the gym today. This can keep you motivated so that you continue to work on your goal.


Step 4 – Be kind to yourself – it takes time to get into the habit of regularly achieve your goal. Remember, if you don’t manage to go for a run, or cycle to work one day, tomorrow is a new day to have another go.


Make February your new January and have a go at working on your new S.M.A.R.T goals.


Blue Monday



The third Monday in January has become known and reported on widely as Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year.


Its demonization is based on our Christmas warm glow beginning to vanish, whilst the weather worsens and the bills from our wonderful holiday season start to land on our doormats and inboxes. Add that most of our well-intended resolutions have now fallen by the wayside, (I’ve yet to start my 2019 fitness revolution – I blame the truck load of Christmas goodies that appeared in our house and although now hidden in cupboards, are still calling my name!), this is not the jolliest time of the year.


So what can we do?


Many, including the Samaritans are using this day to promote doing something good for yourself and others, supporting those around you at a time when we are all feeling a little bit ‘urgh’. Checking in on others and ourselves, will have a huge impacted on our communities and I hope those around me always feel I am there for them, but is it time for me to step up and proactively show that I am.


So, here is my promise on this Blue Monday:


– I promise to arrange that coffee with the gang, the one that I’ve been meaning to do since the start of November.


– I promise, after numerous failed attempts last year, to actually go and see a film with my film loving friend.


– And I promise to finally put the biscuits down and start my fitness plan.


So, let’s make a deal on this Blue Monday to check in with ourselves and our family and friends. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to call for ages and just haven’t got around to it, put down your phone and start that book or simply give someone who is looking down a hug or a smile. It’s amazing the impact a small gesture can make to someone. Plus, it’s never too late to start or restart those New Year’s resolutions.


And remember the #asktwice campaign, if you sense something is not quite right, don’t take their first ‘ok’ as an answer, ask again and see if there is something more needed.


Now, off to find my phone and make that call (wonder what cake the coffee shop will have in this week, I mean fruit salad 😊).