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Alina1235's avatar

How can I "force" my body to go to sleep? Total suffering...

Asked by Alina1235 (373points) March 28th, 2008

I work in television. And I work both shifts, either have to be at the station at 4 in the morning, for the first news broadcast at 5, and get off at 1 in the afternoon, OR 3pm to midnight. The second shift is not a problem, but I can’t make my body go to sleep at around 7 or 8 at night to get up at 2:30 am. I sleep for may be an hour – and then I suffer all morning/day long at work. I have HUGE responsibility at work, requires high concentration and attention. We basically make tv happen, and if I’m not alert (which I rarely am), then something will go wrong. So far I’ve been lucky, but I literally fall asleep infront of the prompter. Anyone else works swing shifts? How do you fall asleep when you’re “suppose” to?

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24 Answers

brownlemur's avatar

Wow, your body probably hates you right about now. I don’t think there’s a good answer for this. The problem with your type of swing shift is that your body doesn’t seem to fall into any sort of steady pattern of sleep, and so it is confused. Do you drink coffee or anything with caffeine? That probably isn’t going to help matters. I would talk to a sleep specialist, but I’m guessing she/he will tell you that a regular sleep pattern is the way to go.

I’m glad you asked this question. I’ve been wondering the same thing. As a grad student, I sleep about 4 hours per night, and they are seldom the same 4 hours. I’m curious to know what other people will answer. I need sleep too!

sfgirl's avatar

Have you tried a sleeping aid? If you’re against taking medication, make sure not to drink caffeine in the afternoon and try to wind down earlier – use an eye mask if it’s still light outside, get ear plugs if it’s too loud, take a bath, etc…

I don’t think there’s any great panacea for you…I would just try different things and figure out what works best.

luminous00's avatar

I find that Valium, Xanax, or any of those will work. Haha

Alina1235's avatar

well, actually some of the reporters DO take sleeping pills, because they suffer from the same thing, except they actually have to look good infront of the camera.
I have tried sleeping pills before, and oh boy, they made me so tired for the entire day afterwards. Like almost drunken state of mind lol.
I agree, my body probably hates my guts, but I love my job so much, I would hate to mess it up.
Some people actually take naps between broadcasts lol – I almost want to try it, but afraid that i’ll just fall into this deep sleep and noone will wake me up. ha-ha!

robmandu's avatar

Just speaking from what I’ve read, it seems like doctors (like interns working 36 hour shifts) and military folks pretty much just take naps at any moment that they can.

Lack of sleep will eventually catch up with you, though. Some people are able to put it off for quite a while, but it’s hell to pay.

Curious to know if you have coworkers there with the same variable shift responsibility. Do you need to work your way up and progress to a certain level of seniority so that you can get the “good” shift?

Alina1235's avatar

rob, lol – no – that’s pretty much what everyone does. our station operates 24 hours, so there is someone here around the clock. kinda stupid if you ask me. who really watches the news at 5 am, but we must go on air. half asleep, but it must happen.

i know it’s going to catch up to me. it’s not like college anymore, where there would be overnight final studies, and 2 day staight party and i was still able to do it all without sleep.

while i’m still young and can still pull it off somehow, it’s not as easy as it useto be.

it’s 11:30am right now – and i’m breaking my 3rd “wake up wind”. but watch, as soon as i get home, i won’t be tired anymore until i completely crash…...


FlutherMother's avatar

Without question, you realize that regular sleeping patterns would be the ideal situation for anyone with sleep deprivation. But seeing as that is not possible for you, let’s see what we can do to make the best of what you can do. First of all, make sure that you are fueling your body well. Empty carbs, sugar, and caffiene will be the first thing your body craves because it is tired and is looking for a quick pick-me-up. However, that will just exacerbate the problem when you come down from the sugar high. Don’t worry about preparing elaborate, traditional breakfast/lunch/dinner (and it sounds like you don’t have time for that anyway), but find healthy snacks you can keep around to eat in between. Also, keep yourself hydrated (pure water is best) because even a small amount of dehydration will make you feel even more tired despite how much rest you manage to get. I know you said you feel you can’t nap, but see if you can’t try to. Set the timer on your phone. I understand that 20–26 minutes is good for a nap. Longer can leave you groggier – I am not an expert but I understand it has something to do with the various stages of sleep. Because your body is so sleep deprived, it may be hard at first to wake up, but as your body adjusts, you should find it easier to catch those catnaps. Good luck to you – I had a graveyard shift one college summer break and it just did me in – I am a definite sleeper so I feel your pain.

Alina1235's avatar

ooo fluthermother, thank you – actually good point – i literally eat like total crap, i have to keep reminding myself of that.
oh you don’t even want to know what i consumed this morning. 2 cups of coffee, a candy bar, and chips, and some creamy crab salad. oh – i’m already regretting it so much.

i really really have to think about my diet. i’m just desperate lol

Angelina's avatar

I think that developing a winding-down pattern will help, as a way of signalling to your body that it’s time to relax and get to sleep. For example, no matter what time you’re going to bed, always start with a cup of chamomile tea, or take a bath, basically anything that is anti-stimulating. You may also find aromatherapy to be helpful; there are wonderful scents that are calming. I’ve found in the past that listening to music at a low volume as I fall asleep helps because I’ll have the lyrics in my mind rather than my thoughts racing about the next day’s tasks. Mainly my advice is that before you can fall asleep, you need to be relaxed, so whatever helps you do so is a good thing.

Also, reducing sugars and caffeine will help a LOT. If you’re drinking a lot of coffee and snacking in the hours leading up to the end of your shift, you won’t be able to sleep well. This will repeat the pattern where you’re tired so you need coffee. It may be necessary to nip this in the bud and suffer for a couple days, but then you’ll feel much better in the long-run when you’re actually getting to sleep.

FlutherMother's avatar

Oh my goodness – if I were your mother, I would be having a conniption fit over what you ate! :-)

Actually, I am far from perfect myself (severe chocoholic), but I definitely can feel the difference when I eat better – I can get through the day without feeling desperate for a nap in the afternoon if I eat small, healthy meals.

Anyway, I did remember one more helpful hint. When I worked at a daycare with regular naptimes, every day there would be kids who were either too keyed up to sleep or who were overtired (believe it or not – there is such a thing as being too tired to sleep – ask any mother who deals with a cranky child at the end of a long day). When you are in bed with the anticipation of sleeping more than a quick nap, give shake yourself all over – I know it seems silly, but do it anyway. Then lie still and start with consciously relaxing your feet (making them dead weight) and moving up through your body and the way up to your head. The tension in your body sometimes can trick your body into flight/fight mode and keep you alert. But, when you relax yourself, your body can then release yourself from that mode and slip into sleep. Try it and see if it helps. Again, my thoughts are with you. And good luck with your career – it sounds like fun!

hollywoodduck's avatar

I agree that catnaps at any chance will help you. I also agree that a well balanced diet would help your body through all of what you are putting it through.

What usually helps me get to sleep is Tension Tamer Tea. I like that better than the sleepy time because I feel it relaxes me more. It might be worth a shot for you to get to sleep or get back to sleep.

Alina1235's avatar

oh great advice!!!! I’m so happy i found all of you!
well I just got home and now I’m wired. I’m going to try to do exactly as you all advised. I will let you know my progress shortly. Its been a long day/ morning LOL

syz's avatar

I worked a job that required third shift one week and first shift the next. When I worked third shift, sleep was all important. When I clocked out, I would take a benadryl. By the time I got home, it would be kicking in. I would then follow a strict routine (wash my face, brush my teeth, etc), put in my ear plugs (that took a LOT of getting used to) and go to bed. I found that if I let distractions keep me from following that routine, my sleep pattern would be destroyed.

ideabrian's avatar

When I have too much caffeine, I can use Pzizz software on my iPod/iPhone and after the first couple of times of use, I can get to sleep quickly. I also use it while traveling between time zones or if I just want to take a 20 minute rest and ensure I wake up if I do, in fact, fall asleep.

My problem is the brain moving too fast. Their audio-generating software works for me.

*disclaimer – I’m great friends with the guys who run the company.

Alina1235's avatar

ideabrian how do I go about getting that pzizz for iPhone? I googled it but no sure if I have to download it on my desktop first and then sync it to my iPhone. Could you walk me through it? Sounds like a helpful idea

DeezerQueue's avatar

I’ve had to do shift work before and the only thing I can tell you is that it’s necessary to find a way that works best for you to wind down. I think though, what worked best for me was to develop a routine that, after a short time, queued me for sleepiness; namely the signals that you send yourself that it’s nearing the time to get to bed are coming around.

Make certain that the sleep that you get is sound as well. I use earplugs, but have trained myself to listen for the alarm.

There is also a new product that helps people to wake up more naturally, which also might be helpful in simulating the body’s natural reaction to daylight approaching. The Philips Wake-up Light .

delirium's avatar

this is just something that worked for me after reading something. I read that humans are naturally intended to sleep four hours and function for eight and repeat. It works SO well.

AuditoryHaven's avatar

The best thing to do is to take full advantage of when you are allowed to sleep. Like syz mentioned above, having a routine before going to sleep will be very helpful. Your body soon associates the two activities and sleeping at different times should be easier. Another mistake a lot of people make is watching TV in bed, or even having one in the bedroom, or working or eating in bed. Doing other activities from your bed greatly affects your sleeping there. Your mind needs to associate only sleeping with that place. I took my TV out of my bedroom and stopped studying from there and the difference it made was astonishing. As far as napping goes, cat naps feel nice but the only sleep that will improve your alertness is REM sleep and one REM cycle takes about an hour and a half so this is the ideal nap length. Hope I was helpful and good luck!

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I like the good ol fashion natural way. Some good organically grown Mary jane. Its medicinal uses alone would do wonders for people, especially some elected officials.

judochop's avatar

First and foremost cut out caffeine and foods with high refined sugars. This will not be easy to do but it is an important step. Second of all, don’t fall asleep in front of your computer or television on the couch and then wake up and then go to bed. Always sleep only in your bed or where you have made a place just for sleep.
I just looked up and read some other responses and it sounds to me like AuditoryHaven has hit the nail on the head so to speak.
May I just add that swing shifters nerves are often shot as well. I grew up in a house where my father worked swing. It is very hard on not only you but everyone around you.
Good luck and best wishes of health to you.

Alina1235's avatar

thank you everyone for your input. I appreciate it so much. I crashed yesterday for a bit. Then slept through the night and then today fell asleep again between 5 and 7 pm. Now I’m up again. I’m off for next few days so I’ll catch up. My sleep patterns are so messed up LOL. I’m going to take all your advices and try to follow them thank you all SO much!

ideabrian's avatar

Pzizz is software you download to your computer and then you generate audio files. Those are what you put on your ipod / iphone. (Sorry for not being more specific.) has been recently updated and I think there’s even a walkthrough video just on the software itself once you run it. (There is on the Mac version.)

Side note: If you don’t need to wake up I also recommend just sleeping without any constraints, but pzizz is better if I need to wake up feeling good or if my brain is buzzing with too much activity.

mgrie07's avatar

There are certain forms of meditations that i use. I am not religious really, but i find these ancient middle eastern things work. I use one that is very effective. What you do is close your eyes while lying down in bed. Just lie there for 30 seconds. Then start saying a word in your head, but as if you were saying out loud. I say scheem (sp). You can use any word, the beliefs behind it are that this deity would bring prosperity. You can also use one, or any other one syllable word. This sets your minds wave lengths at a certain speed, whatever speed you use, doesn’t matter. After thinking it about ten times, stop and your mind will continue to do it. I usually go my my breathes. It’s ok if you still feel like you are saying it, but do this for at least twenty minutes, if you arn’t asleep by then, slowly open your eyes if you want to get up, if not asleep, you will be extremely relaxed.

bonnalicious's avatar

My little miracle: When i can’t sleep because my mind is running, or because i drank too much caffiene, or because i’m just wide awake and wired even though my body is tired, i take a homeopathic remedy:

Coffea Cruda.

It knocks me out within 20 minutes every time. I sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed (and on time!)

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