NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Prepare for Sleep

Follow a relaxing routine before bedtime to help your body make the transition from being awake to sleeping.

If you are likely to wake up because of hunger, eat a small snack before bedtime.

Educate and insist that your family and friends not disturb you when you are sleeping.

Keep light levels low 1-2 hours before bedtime. Consider adding dimmer switches to bathrooms and other places you frequent before going to bed.

Brushing your teeth, washing your face, and getting dressed for bed can help you relax and sleep. You can set an alarm an hour or so before bedtime to remind yourself to start doing only relaxing activities to get your body ready for sleep.

Avoid the following before bedtime:

  • Heavy, spicy meals 2 to 3 hours before
  • Liquids (to avoid having to get up during sleep)
  • Alcohol, which promotes sleep onset but causes early awakening and sleep disturbances. If you plan to drink alcohol, have it several hours before bedtime.
  • Caffeine (avoid for several hours, according to individual sensitivity). The half-life of caffeine (time to eliminate half of the caffeine consumed) is 5 to 6 hours but is much longer in some people.4 Night shift workers who rely on caffeine to stay alert could consume it at the beginning of the shift but should stop several hours before the shift ends.
  • Nicotine (for several hours)
  • Exercise: if you have trouble falling asleep, try finishing exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Module: 6, Page 4 of 20
Page last reviewed: March 31, 2020