Tips for Shift Workers for Resetting the Biological Clock

Here are things you can do at home to ensure you are getting the sleep you need:

  • Light is the most powerful influencer of the body’s circadian clock and it will negatively affect your ability to fall asleep. Therefore, after the end of your night shift, wear sunglasses if you are commuting home in bright sunlight. In contrast, once you wake up, go outside into the sun to cue your biological clock that it is time to be awake and alert.



  • A darkened room signals your brain that it is time to sleep. So keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Heavy curtains and eye masks can help. If you need to get up, use a small nightlight instead of turning on bright lights.

  • Try to go to bed as soon as possible after your shift, ideally within two hours and allow enough time to unwind and relax, but don’t fall asleep in your recliner or sofa with a television blasting in the background.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping. No paperwork, bills, unfolded laundry, TV, electronics, or pets.

  • Eliminate noise with earplugs, a fan or a white noise machine. Turn off or unplug the phone. Install carpeting or sound-absorbing curtains, drapes, or shades.

  • Keep your room well ventilated and the temperature on the cool side, ideally between 60 and 65.

  • Ideally, avoid caffeine-containing beverages and food such as coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate at least six to eight hours before bedtime.

  • Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. Avoid eating two hours prior to bedtime. If needed, have a glass of milk or light snack before bed. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which research has shown helps people fall asleep. Avoid consuming protein at bedtime, which may be harder to digest. Don’t drink excessive fluids prior to bedtime to avoid having to get up to urinate.

  • Stop working at any task and attempt to resolve anything potentially stimulating, worrisome or upsetting one hour before bedtime. Learn a relaxation technique, such as progressive muscle relaxation, and practice it in bed.

  • Try to maintain a consistent and regular sleep schedule on workdays and weekends. To help your body know when to be alert and when to sleep.

  • Begin altering your sleep schedule few days in advance of a shift change. Postpone your bedtime and wake time by one to two hours to match the new planned shift. By the time you begin the new shift, your circadian sleep-wake rhythm will be reoriented.

  • Short naps before the planned shift will not substitute the regular schedule of sleep but can reduce your sleep debt and improve your alertness.

  • Ask your employer to work with you to determine a scheduling change that could improve your job performance and make you feel less tired and your workplace should be well lighted and appropriate to keep your alertness.