Generally speaking, during the night, there aren’t too many smells to contend with when your brain is trying to sleep, but during the day, the world is bustling around us, making sleep more elusive than ever. Your family might be in the kitchen making pancakes and bacon, or they could be whipping up a batch of fresh cookies; your neighbor might have just cut the grass and the fresh scent drifts into your window. These smells can hinder our ability to get sound sleep during the day, but the ideas on this page will have you sleeping like a baby!
Interesting fact: Scent receptors are 10,000 times more accurate than taste buds and experts believe our sense of smell is our most influential sense!
The amygdala is an almond shaped structure in the frontal portion of the brain that stores information from memories and causes us to perceive emotions. It is most known for your ability to feel fear, although as we learn more about the amygdala, we know that it is intimately related to the olfactory system (your sense of smell). If you have ever smelled something and are immediately transported back in time to your grandmother’s kitchen, or a childhood place, or even an unpleasant memory that suddenly seems crystal clear, you have just experienced your limbic system, specifically your amygdala in action.
In a study in Las Vegas, they released pleasurable scents into the casino through the vents and the amount of money people were gambling actually doubled! Another article talks about how a movie theater was secretly putting buttery popcorn scents through the air conditioning vents and the amount of popcorn people ate, even if it was stale almost tripled!
Certain smells will travel into your nose and your olfactory receptors and reach the amygdala through sensory transduction. This causes our bodies to have various reactions to the smells. Lucky for us, our olfactory system can also relay information to our brains that help us to stay calm and to sleep better if we use the right scents.
People have been using essential oils and herbal scents for thousands of years. It has only recently become a billion-dollar business. Essential oils are extracts made from plants that are steamed or pressed to expel their fragrance. Research has proven that being exposed to a pleasant smell can actually cause you to have better dreams.
An essential oil diffuser can be easily purchased for a cheap price at Walmart or target or even shipped straight to your door from amazon. If you don’t want the diffuser, many oils can be rubbed directly on the skin or dabbed on the neck or wrist. The great thing about the oils is that you can use as little or as much as you want. Always start with a small amount for the rare occasion you might have a reaction to it. Oils are generally safe, although some people may react differently. Some oils come in packs or groups specific to your needs. There are hundreds of different oils and diffusers for everything from an aching toe, to headaches, sinus infections and Alzheimer’s. I am going to focus on the ones for sleep here though.
Here are a list of some of the top sellers of diffusers at a reasonable price.
2. Second on the list is a smaller diffuser that is BPA free, has an automatic shut off switch and all of the benefits of the first diffuser, but a much cheaper price and a different style for you. The only drawback is that you will need to purchase the oils separately. But at 14.99, it’s a steal!
If you know someone who might benefit from some essential oils, say a coworker, or a family member, or maybe a friend, this diffuser comes with a full set of essential oils and a rotating stand as well. Talk about fancy!
Although aromatherapy and essential oils have massive benefits for most people, always be cautious about trying a new type of therapy for yourself. If you are on any medications or have any conditions, please ask your doctor before using any of these ideas. Also, be careful of prolonged exposure more than an hour a day. Most diffusers have automatic shut off switches that you can program for the time you want. Pregnant women and children especially might be affected different by some of these scents. Most important of all,
Go Ahead! Try something new. It might have more benefits for you than are even written here. As always if you have any questions or feedback, write your comments below and let us know what works and doesn’t work for you. Most of the products we have recommended have come directly from another night shifter who personally has used it and attested to its advantages.
What mattress do I use? Keeping it cool
Just as all of our other senses such as sight, hearing, and smelling affect our sleep, so does touch. Believe it or not, our external environment and even the kind of sheets, mattress and socks we use can also hinder or assist our sleep patterns. See my page on sheets and socks! Based on the time of day, our bodies go through temperature regulating cycles to maintain homeostasis. The Mid 60s is said to be the best sleep temperature. Generally speaking, the time of day when our bodies are coolest and consistent with the best sleep quality is around 4 am for most people, give or take a few hours. Unfortunately for night shifters, we are at work at this time.
Sleeping in the daytime is not only a difficult task, but physically it is taxing on the body. For many reasons, our bodies are meant to sleep at night. We have regulated sleep cycles that are governed by light and dark and hormones that tell us when to sleep. Even our digestive systems slow down at night and our core body temperatures become lower so we can get ideal sleep and our cells can regenerate. During the day we can block out the light and sound, we can even take pills or supplements to get better rest, but nothing compares to a quality sleep environment to catch some much-needed zzzzzz’s. High quality mattresses, sheets, pillows, blankets and temperature regulation are all crucial factors in sleeping during the day. Fighting against the natural circadian rhythms of our bodies is hard enough, but add a squeaky mattress and flat pillows and you are headed for disaster.
A Quality Mattress
Sleeping on a well-made mattress is pretty important for any day shift “normal” person, but for a night shifter it is a necessity. A mattress can make or break your sleep cycles, your bank, and your back, if you know what I mean! There are so many options out there that it’s hard to choose. Cheap or expensive, it is important to know that you are getting a bed that will help you sleep the best. There are even “smart” beds out there now that you can buy that regulate the temperature of the mattress based on how restless you are. They help give you the best sleep and can be set to wake you by gently increasing the temperature of the bed slowly. It can also track your sleep cycles and quality of sleep. If you can afford it, this is by far the best way to go. The sleep eight bed is the best high-tech bed in this category. for most people, though, a medium- priced mattress that is not too cheap can do the job.
There are many materials that mattresses are made of. Sometimes you might have to try it out to find out which one fits you best. Most mattress stores will give you a free trial for 30 days or more to determine if their mattress is right for you.
This is the most popular foam option selling today. The reason is that it is a nice soft and contouring mattress that helps relieve pressure in problem areas and sore spots on many people. (the back, hips and other joints). It is low density and easily compressed which is why it is SO comfy. It does tend to trap heat which is very bad for night shifters. Our bodies need to be cool and comfortable to sleep, and having an external environment that is cooler during the day is even more important than when we sleep at night because our bodies are naturally warmer during daylight hours. Luckily, many memory foam companies are now making mattresses with open cell technology, such as Amerisleep AS3 which lets more airflow through. Sometimes they add cooling materials such as gel, charcoal or copper. The Puffy Lux mattress is a gel infused memory foam and is my personal favorite choice. It’s like sleeping on a cooling cloud. Their gel technology gives just the right amount of support and comfort with the bonus of cooling you down while you sleep. The price is about the same as other mattress companies, but there are usually coupons or a sale. I mean when is there ever not a mattress sale, right?
The feel of latex foam is similar to memory foam although it is a bit “bouncier”. It is made from the sap of a rubber tree and that may be why. It is a pricier option than memory foam, but is more Eco friendly and will last longer. Again, everyone has a different priority and if an environmentally friendly mattress is your choice, this will work for you. Dunlop and Talalay are the two types of latex foam. They are mostly similar in feeling. The way they are processed is minimally different though, as Talalay uses more energy to produce the mattress. There isn’t much information on these mattresses for cooling though, and since I haven’t used one, I cannot comment further on the quality or comfort of them. Basically, a latex mattress doesn’t easily change its temperature so it doesn’t sleep hot or cold, and we are looking for a more “cooling” mattress for day sleep.
Innerspring mattresses are the oldest and most common mattress you can find. Built with coils, this mattress is also ideal for cooling since only the top layer or two is made of foam. Unfortunately, this is also the mattress that breaks down the fastest with an average of five years until sagging can occur. Also, if the mattress isn’t super high quality, you will feel the coils after a small amount of wear and tear. Not much more to say about this sad little mattress.
Hybrid beds are a combo of innerspring and foam, although there is more foam than the innerspring. I’m not personally sold on this being any more comfortable than a regular old-fashioned innerspring mattress, although the name does sound good. It does have coils like an innerspring, but usually they are individually wrapped in fabric instead of just a layer of foam on top. Hybrids tend to be on the cheaper side and some do have either gel beads or additional cooling features with foam with holes or cells that let the air circulate, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it is not the coolest choice and does tend to wear out faster than a memory foam or latex foam mattress.
There are always the waterbeds, which are by far the worst choice for someone who needs any support or cool sleeping, but is also a bed, so I wanted to mention it. There are couch beds and futons and airbeds. All different sizes and shapes for all different sizes and shapes of people. Some people are lighter and some are heavier. Some need more support, some need less. Of course, you can do more research on your own. I just wanted to give the basic information on mattresses that pertains specifically to night shift and how a cooling bed is probably the best choice for someone that is already behind the power curve when it comes to quality sleep. Basically, you want a bed that wicks away the perspiration since your temperature will already be warmer than someone who sleeps at night, and you want a bed that is comfortable for your own needs.
Sometimes when we have “exhausted” all other avenues and the blackout curtains and fans and sleep masks don’t work, we need to resort to some mild supplements for assistance with our sleep. Sleeplessness is a common disorder and even more so for graveyard shifters. Let’s look at the list of some tried and true best natural sleep remedies that have been reviewed and found to work.
Melatonin has been mentioned over and over in any article you read on how to get quality sleep and have improved sleep cycles. Melatonin is a naturally circulating endocrine hormone that is found in animals, plants and microbes and is known as a synchronizer of the biological clock. It is regulated by the light and dark that enters the body through the retina of the eyes, which then sends signals to the brain and the pineal gland to release the melatonin. The release of melatonin induces drowsiness. Melatonin has also been shown to interact with the immune system and has an anti-inflammatory effect. More recently, it has been shown that in moderate amounts, melatonin may offer some resistance to the Covid-19 virus. It has been studied to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), cancer, immune disorders, depression, cardiovascular disease, insomnia in the elderly (as our melatonin levels decrease with age), seasonal affective disorder, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. These are all awesome benefits, especially for a night shifter who probably has more than one of these issues.
Melatonin has been used in numerous studies to increase the quality of sleep in many ways. It is a natural supplement, and is available over the counter in pretty much any drug store or grocery store chain and is easily ordered online. There are so many to choose from, but click here for one of the best melatonin supplements on the market. As with any natural supplement it is best to start with a small dose as melatonin has been known to increase vivid dreams and sometimes can cause nightmares and grogginess. I personally tried it and had that side effect. Most people can take it without a problem although it is not recommended in pregnancy.
Everyone is familiar with magnesium. It is a completely naturally occurring mineral that is vital to our well-being. Being deficient in magnesium can have many drawbacks including anxiety, sleep disorders, irritability (and I’m irritable when I’m tired!) and heart rhythm issues. As a lab scientist, I know that this is one of the tests doctors order more frequently when determining a patient diagnosis for various issues including brain function and heart health. When taking a magnesium supplement, it can increase relaxation, sleep quality and mental health and clarity.
Additional amino acids and minerals not as widely used, but that have claims for increasing sleep health are
Some of the oldest supplements are still the best.
It is derived from the same cannabis plants as THC but does not cause any of the same psychoactive effects. It can be taken in multiple ways including ingesting it in food products or capsules, topically absorbing the creams, vaporizing and inhaling it or as a tincture. The soporific effects of the CBD oil come from the way it interacts with the brain chemistries as well. It is linked to decreased anxiety, relaxed muscles, and reduction of nightmares, to name a few. It is also thought to be safe in pregnancy, which is a characteristic that a lot of other herbal remedies and supplements cannot claim. I wish I knew this when I was working night shift and pregnant with my second daughter. My sleep suffered dramatically. Like melatonin, CBD oil interacts with the sleep/wake cycle in the brain although the exact chemistry is not completely understood yet.
Other herbal supplements that have been used, but maybe not as well-known are
Most of these products have additional benefits including, but not limited to decreased anxiety and depression. Be careful though as risks include some drug and food interactions and interactions with pregnancy and breast feeding even with natural supplementation. Doing your research to see what will work best for you and possibly contacting your physician is a good idea before beginning any sort of sleep regime. Many of these remedies are only safe for short term use as well, although if the benefits outweigh the risks for you, it may be something you want to look into. Happy supplementing and sweet dreams.
They say eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes are also the window to light, and a lot of it when you are trying to sleep during the day! Can someone say, Turn off the sun? Room darkening is a necessary element to restful sleeping. Melatonin, also known as the darkness hormone, is released by a gland in our brains to induce our bodies to sleep when it is dark. Melatonin decreases when light is taken in through the eyes, causing sub optimal sleep and sometimes even tricking the body into thinking it is more awake. Chemical reactions occur in the body and tell us to sleep in the dark and wake up in the light. The outside cues in nature that tell our bodies when to sleep are called zeitgebers and the most important zeitgeber is the light. Naturally, we are supposed to be sleeping at night and awake in the day. Here are a few essential solutions for getting the most restful sleep during the brightest hours of the day
If you work in an environment with a computer or any type of “blue light”, using the night mode will adjust the screen to a natural color. Blue light is light given off by many electronics and is visible to the human eye. Since it is a short wavelength, it produces higher amounts of energy. Not only is it known to cause macular degeneration,(an eye disease that causes permanent damage and vision loss), but blue light will penetrate the eye and tell the brain to release less melatonin, causing the body to stay awake. This is why scientific studies have told us not to use cell phones or electronics an hour or two before bedtime because the blue light keeps us awake. Decreasing the amount of melatonin the body produces is detrimental to our health. If you don’t have night mode on your computer, there are some fashionable glasses you can purchase that help to shield your eyes from blue light. They are called blue light blocking glasses. Check these out on amazon! Not only are they affordable, but they block out up to 97% of the blue light when most glasses only block out 50%. Plus they are super stylish!
Blue light blocking glasses increase sleep quality and quantity. In fact, the average person working day shift should invest in a pair if they are interested in preserving the health of their eyes. Another way you can avoid blue light if you don’t have night mode on your computer is downloading a program called f.lux. It is free and decreases the blue light on the screen. The blue light blocking glasses should also be worn when leaving work. Remember when you were little and asked your mom, Why is the sky blue? The blue sky wakes our bodies to prepare for the day. Blue light from the sun can also keep awake, so the glasses should be worn all the way home if they are to be used properly.
Once you are home and away from the harsh light of the sun, you will need to adjust your environment to tell your body it is night time. A way to change the light entering our eyes is to use an amber light once you are in bed. As long as the room is dark enough, this light can help your body to produce melatonin and give you more restful sleep.
If you don’t mind wearing a sleep mask to bed, this is one option that can severely limit the amount of light entering your corneas and telling your body to wake up. There are many options to choose from. The old days of Grandmas floral design sleep mask with overly tight elastic bands is over. Looking online, you can easily find a range of sleep masks for restful sleep. Many even come with headphones to use music and other stimuli for better sleep. See my page on how sound can affect sleep! These headphones are priced extremely affordable for the comfort and benefits they provide.
Many people find blackout curtains a helpful addition to their bedroom décor as well if moving into the bathtub isn’t an option for you! These curtains are thick and designed to block out the penetrating rays of the sun. Some are actually pretty stylish. Even normal heavy drapes can do the trick and there are some blinds that limit light as well. Wrap around rods for the blackout curtains are also very helpful. They can be found at almost any Walmart or local store that carries home goods. Some are pretty cheap and there are a wide variety that you can purchase online. I recommend amazon just because their return policy is so easy. Here are some links to some that I have tried and have worked pretty good.
If you have some spare change to spend, and like the idea of feeling safe and secure camping in your room, the bed tent is for you. It is totally worth the price. It is a private oasis made to snugly fit around the mattress of your regular bed. Made originally for napping and people that want privacy in dorms and barracks, it can be zipped closed to reduce the ambient light coming in. It is a perfect little pod if you want the comfort and solitude of your own space without affecting the entire room. It can be used with pretty much any type of bed from foam to spring coil, even an air bed or futon. The best part about the bed tent is that its easily set up and can be taken for traveling when zipped in the carrying bag.
Temporarily moving into the basement is another option for some people if you have a basement or another room in your house that is facing west or doesn’t have windows. If you can’t afford room darkening curtains, blue light blocking glasses (which I highly recommend) or a sleep mask (most are extremely affordable), cardboard or Styrofoam and even aluminum foil can do the trick if cut to the right size of your window. Get creative and depending on whether you own your house or where you live, home depot and some plywood could help too. Hobby lobby has black felt and other materials that can be cut to the exact size you need so you don’t let any light in. Even the Dollar store has black foam boards you can use.
Regardless of which method you choose, adjusting the dark and light is essential for healthier sleep. Luckily for me, my house actually has my master bedroom facing the west which is ideal for my night shift schedule. The morning light is on the other side of the house which is fantastic and my blinds and curtains almost completely eliminate light in my room.
These are just a few ideas for helping block the light of day for the vampires within us. As always, If you have any questions, feel free to email us and we will get back to you. Have a great sleep!
Hi I’m Sara.
Here is a little bit about me! I am a Clinical Lab Scientist and I have been working night shift on and off for around 20 years. I am also a previously certified personal trainer. Growing up, I was always intrigued by science, specifically the science of the human body and how it thrives.
I Joined the army straight out of high school. After basic training, I studied to become a clinical lab scientist. It was awesome being able to get an education for a career I wanted, as well as getting free daily exercise. I realized shortly after my individualized training when I started at my duty station that I didn’t get to see people as much as I would like to. I’m not much of an introvert. I was stuck in the lab all day and night. It can get very lonely. After my discharge from the army, I continued my college to earn a degree in science, but at the same time I felt very anxious about getting out in the world and making a difference.
With the support of my family and friends, I took some time off of work and school to pursue a career in personal training. I began working as a trainer in Texas and then moved to Florida and have since moved to Ohio where I currently reside.
I currently have a two-year-old daughter, Nora, a one-year old daughter, Lilly, and the biggest baby of all, my 95-pound boxer, Luca Brasi. It hasn’t been practical for me to continue working as a personal trainer, so I came back to the lab as a scientist again. I am trying to work night shift and balance my life and let me tell you, it is not easy!! I started doing some research and come to find out, there is almost NO information on working night shift and leading a healthy and balanced life. Every diet and doctor show say to eat a healthy breakfast after a good night of sleep. How are we supposed to do that?
Having met so many people with different backgrounds through my life journey, I have come to learn that there is not just one way to live healthily. I have also learned that there are so many reasons people work night shift and sacrifice for themselves and their families. My personal reason right now is so that my daughters don’t have to go to daycare as often and can be home with me caring for them as much as possible during the day. When I was in the army, I worked nights because everyone had to take turns. While I was in school, I worked nights so that I could take classes during the day. Other times in my career, I worked night shift because that is what was available to me. I worked as a traveling Medical technologist for a few years (which is what led me to Ohio and where I met my husband) and also worked nights while traveling. Throughout the years I have tried many different things to balance my life while on night shift. I have gotten input from so many others and am interested in sharing it with you. So many people are looking for answers and help on how to sleep, what to eat, when to eat, when to exercise, and I have probably tried it all!
While I’m working all night and playing with my daughters (and Luca) during the day, I have to be healthy to do all of this. Without a quality sleep routine, healthy foods and vitamins and a consistent workout routine none of this would be possible. (The support of some close friends and family helps too!) I have tried the caffeine and the midnight snacks at the vending machine to stay awake. I’ve gone home and had wine at 730 am to help me sleep. (C’mon, I’m human and it’s my 5-o clock!) I’m sure we have all been there, but to really thrive consistently, a good eating, sleeping and exercise routine is mandatory when working night shift or it’s a downward spiral for your health and your social life (what little bit you can have.)
My true passion is to help others and communicate with others that are in similar situations to lead a life that is better adjusted to a night shift schedule and still allow for a more balanced daily routine. I have seen too many people sick and tired of night shift and not taking care of themselves. Hopefully through the information I’m providing here, we can start getting the word out to the nearly 8 million night shifters that we aren’t all alone and there is a way to work through this night”mare” shift feeling more energized, healthier, happier in general; and getting the sleep we have all dreamed of. No pun intended. We don’t have to be a part of the statistic showing that night shift causes so many negative effects on the body. We can turn it around and I intend to show you how
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out to the best of my ability.
All the best,
Founder of thenitestuff.com