The sleep schedule improves alertness during the night shift and daytime sleep after the shift. But it also provides a “compromise” that helps night-shift workers on days off.
It enables them to get the sleep they need; but it also gives them more free time during the day.
“We think that most real shift workers want to be awake on their days off,” lead author Mark Smith, PhD, previously told the AASM.
Here’s the “compromise” sleep schedule for night-shift workers:
- Sleep from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. after regular night shifts.
- Sleep from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. after the last night shift before a weekend off.
- Sleep from 3 a.m. to noon on days off.
The studies also used three light-related strategies to increase the effectiveness of this schedule. Light is an important timing cue that helps your body regulate sleep and alertness.
First, workers received bright light therapy during simulated 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. night shifts. Light boxes were used during four, 15-minute sessions.
The first session began at 12:45 a.m. These sessions were repeated hourly, with the final session ending at 4 a.m.
Second, workers had to go outside within the first two hours after waking up. They needed to get at least 15 minutes of exposure to daylight.
Third, the workers wore dark sunglasses at all times when outside during the day. This was most important when traveling home after a night shift.
The current study found that workers had improved mood, fatigue and performance during night shifts when following the compromise sleep schedule. These levels were similar to daytime measurements obtained during “9 to 5” work days.
The authors caution that the participants were not real shift workers; they were young volunteers. The “night shifts” were conducted in a laboratory. So the compromise sleep schedule still needs to be tested in real night-shift workers.
Learn about shift work sleep disorder on SleepEducation.com.