How much sleep do you need?

Are you feeling tired and worn out? Those long shifts and short nights can really take their toll, especially if you split your rosters between day and night shifts. If you are a partner at home and managing kids, perhaps juggling a job too or maybe have a child who wakes frequently in the night, then you will no doubt be exhausted too!

So here are a few facts to consider:

  • Most adults need 7-9 hours sleep to function at their best. (If you work away from home and/or up at 4.30am you will need to be asleep by 9.30pm at the absolute latest!)
  • Not sleeping enough means you are more likely to get sick, have cloudy judgment and take more risks.
  • Recent research shows sleep deprivation affects your ability to remember. For example, learning a new task at work is strengthened by ‘replaying’ it whilst asleep. It’s like practice in your sleep!
  • The quality of your sleep affects how rested you feel, not just the length.
  • There are a number of sleep cycles across the night and the ‘light’, ‘deep’ and ‘dreaming’ cycles are vital for physical and psychological recovery. The cycles repeat approximately every 90 minutes.
  • If you regularly sleep less than 7-9 hrs you miss out on important sleep cycles and you will not feel rested.
  • Circadian rhythms control the sleep/wake cycle and have a powerful influence on your alertness levels.
  • These biological rhythms mean we perform best during the day and need to sleep at night.
  • This makes night shifts challenging because the main low point in the rhythm is between midnight and 6am.
  • The peak in the rhythm is between 10am and noon so this explains why going to sleep in the morning after night shift can be hard.

How do you know if you are sleep deprived apart from being grumpy and irritable? Some indicators could be that you:

  • Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
  • Rely on the snooze button
  • Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
  • Need to nap to get through the day
  • Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
  • Feel the need to sleep in when on R & R
  • Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed

If you think fatigue is an issue for you, talk to someone who can help e.g. EAP, GP or someone on site as many companies do provide information and support to manage fatigue.

More information about sleep can be found here.