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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Using Light to Promote a Better Morning Wake-Up Time and Sleepiness in the Evening

You can manipulate the time you wake up naturally and the time you feel sleepy in the evening by using an external light source.1 You can see a sleep disorders specialist to get individual guidance for using light to help adjust your sleep times. Here are general suggestions for a nurse on permanent day shift who is awake and active during the day and sleeps at night.

  • If you have to work very early in the morning or leave early for a long commute, you will likely get less sleep than you would if your start time was later. This is because circadian rhythms promote wakefulness in the evening which makes it difficult for most people to go to sleep early.
  • If you want to wake up earlier, use bright light in the morning and dim light in the evening.1 For very early morning work start times, increasing light exposure in your bedroom before the time needed to awaken can help your body adjust to an early schedule.
  • You can place a timer on a light in your bedroom and set it to turn on about 15 to 30 minutes before you need to wake up. Dawn simulators are available, which you can set to slowly increase light illumination over 45 minutes before the time needed to get up. The light sends a signal through your closed eyelids to your brain while you sleep. While you are getting ready for work, keep the lights bright. If the sun has risen, you can eat your breakfast in a sunlit area. Do not look directly at the light source.
Module: 8, Page 3 of 11