What can I do to sleep better if I work night shifts?

This question was asked in Agency, Missouri on 07/26/2012.
I rotate through 3 shifts every 28 days. I need some sort of sleep aid to go to sleep, which often doesn’t keep me asleep. I am low on energy and groggy through much of my awake time. What can I do? Ambien doesn’t work, and I usually take Nyquil nite time to help me go to sleep, which doesn’t keep me asleep. I’m usually up at least once, eating. What can I do?

Doctors Answers (3)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 7/31/2012

It has been reported that 1 in 5 workers do some form of shift work. Shift workers rarely completely adjust to working nights and sleeping during daylight hours. Some develop the Shift Worker Syndrome which basically means the inability to adjust. We usually recommend a stimulant such as modafinil during the work hours and continue the use of an FDA approved sleep aide to help with sleep. There are several meds other than Ambien. NyQuil is not so good as it is 25% or 50 proof alcohol.

Terry M. Himes, DO
Answered on: 7/27/2012

The Sleep Physician on our staff recommends: Very difficult situation, changing shifts so frequently in a month...Try taking melatonin 6mg and Warm shower/bath, one and a half hours before sleep time. Avoid alcohols and food during your desired sleep time. I.e. If and when you get up during allotted time for sleep.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 7/27/2012

Your rotating work shifts are definitely a problem that is keeping your sleep from being consolidated and you may no have Shit Work sleep disorder if you have trouble staying awake at work or sleeping at home after the odd houred shift. Medicine and or light therapy can help better maintain your sleep but you should see sleep specialist to help distinguish what therapy is best for you.