You should carefully manipulate the timing and type of your light exposure to cope better with the night shift. This can help you to remain alert during your shift and sleep a bit better when you return home in the morning. Theoretically, manipulating light exposure could help your circadian rhythms adjust to permanent night shifts.5,6 A sleep disorders specialist could give you personal guidance about how to do this. See Smith and Eastman if you are interested in learning more about timing exposure to bright light and darkness to better align the circadian clock with a night-work and day-sleep schedule.5
If you work full-time night shift:5,6
- You can be more alert if you increase your light exposure during the first half of the shift. This doesn't mean you have to sit in front of a light, but merely spend as much time as you can in a brightly lit area1,2 .
- In order to make it easier to sleep when you get home, reduce your light exposure during the second half of the shift. Try to avoid bright light, unless you are very sleepy, in which case bright light may help you stay more alert.
- Researchers warn that if you are very sleepy at the end of your night shift, sunglasses can block the alerting effect of light and could lead to more difficulty with drowsy driving on the drive home - which is dangerous. The safest approach is to use sunglasses after night shift only if you have someone else to drive you home.