You don’t need a science degree to figure out that people need sleep. But countless research points to the same conclusion: insufficient sleep can cause a wide range of physical and mental health problems, from poor judgment to depression to heart disease. And ideally, humans should get the sleep they need at night and stay active during the day.
1. Develop a long-term timeline
You can maintain this lifestyle — for now. Powering through may be your best and only option. But if you know you can’t live this way forever, pick a point in the future when you’re sure the lifestyle will stop and focus on getting to that point.
2. Try yoga
The suggestion may seem dismissive, but attending a yoga class even once a week may have noticeable benefits. While you’re doing this, make a deliberate effort to eat healthier foods and exercise at least 10 minutes every day.
Light some candles and relax as long as it is time for you that’s the main thing.
3. Find someone to talk to
You may not need a licensed therapist, but find someone in your circle of family and friends who knows what it’s like to work at night. Lean on this person when you need to share what you’re going through. The experience can be surreal and isolating, and your coworkers may be reluctant to talk about it, since (like you, probably) they don’t want to advertise their struggles.
4. Respect your daytime sleep and insist that others respect it too
If your children, partner or anyone else that you may live with can’t leave you in peace during the day, talk with them seriously about what you’re going through and be clear about what you need from them (e.g., a quieter space, less light, a room on the non-street side of the house, fewer interruptions).
5. Develop rituals that mark the distinction between “night” and “day”
When you wake up, follow a set of behaviors that train your brain to accept this hour as “morning.” Brewing coffee and making a daily ritual of breakfast can help. A few morning exercises can also help. Keep the pattern similar each day.
6. Recognize what’s happening to you
Mental and physiological changes often have more damaging effects when they’re not expected or understood. A sudden burst of tears, unexplained anger or clumsiness may not feel directly connected to your sleep habits, and you may not technically feel tired when you experience them. But recognize these as the signs and symptoms of disrupted sleep, and know that when your body adjusts to its new schedule, these will probably subside.
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