Today is World Sleep Day (yes, it’s a thing), and as many hotel employees work shifts outside the traditional hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m, good quality sleep can be very challenging. Why? Because working odd hours, navigating covid, even changing time zones, requires you to sleep against your internal body clock that produces circadian rhythms. These rhythms tell your body what to do every 24-hour cycle and influence your body temperature, alertness, hunger and hormone levels.
According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, sleepiness can have a negative effect on your attention, concentration, memory, and mood…basically, every area of your life. On top of that, the stress of the pandemic has wreaked havoc with sleep for many of us. Good news is, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep, even if you work against the clock.
Establish a sleep schedule: According to the Cleveland Clinic, “one of the most important things you can do is create a regular bedtime routine and sticking to it,” (even on your days off).
Lower your body temperature: Either keep your room cool (65-68 F or 18-19 C) or take a hot bath. Kenia Machado, Executive Housekeeper at Hotel Principe Di Savoia in Milan, says, “For overnight shifts, I highly recommend having a hot bath with hot water to relax the body and to let the adrenaline go down before going to bed.”
Make your room dark: Interior designer, Adam Meshberg of the Meshberg Group, is an expert on creating bedroom sanctuaries that enhance sleep despite awkward schedules. He advises, “White linen blackout shades to keep out light and create an environment for a deeper sleep.”
Keep quiet: Meshberg suggests, “Upholstered headboards & soft linens should be first choice to draw out excessive noise & create a relaxing environment.” Machado’s trick, after a long shift, is to get in bed and “listen to white noise since it helps the brain to relax completely and creates a special atmosphere. I really find the sound of rain or of a stream useful to help detach from work,” she says.
Don’t look at screens: This may be obvious, but one of the triggers that keeps people awake is light, and this includes the glow from phones, tablets and TV. Phil McCartan, Hastings Hotels’ resident sleep expert and housekeeping manager at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast, Ireland says, “Studies have shown that using a device set at top brightness for two hours suppresses the normal night-time release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.” If you do feel the need to have your phone by you, use it for meditation. Sara Harper, Director of Marketing and E-Commerce for KSL Resorts, suggests, “The Timer App. The sleep feature is incredible. Hundreds of sleep meditations, music for every length and type (go back to sleep, get to sleep, yoga nidra for sleep, positive dreams, love, etc). I use the guided meditations for sleep every night and sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night.”
Cut back on caffeine and don’t have a big meal before bed: According to the UCLA Sleep Center,“Stomach problems are common in shift workers. Many shift workers eat poorly and at odd times.” Try to eat three regular meals spaced evenly over the course of the day. Regular mealtimes serve as time cues to help your body know when to make you sleepy. Try to consume light meals with foods whose nutrients stimulate the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body's sleep and wake rhythms. According to Elisabetta Trezzi, Spa Manager at The Eden Spa, Hotel Eden in Rome, “The best foods are tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage, but also oats, corn, walnuts, almonds, and some fruits including bananas and cherries; these help to regulate rest because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid essential for well-being, relaxation, and deep sleep.”
Set boundaries: The Cleveland Clinic suggests letting people know what hours you’re working and when you will be sleeping, so they can leave you to rest. For those living with you, ask them not to do anything noisy while you sleep, like vacuuming, washing dishes or watching TV loudly. Put your smartphone on “Do Not Disturb” mode so your screen won’t be lighting up frequently with new email, messages or phone call notifications.
What to do if you do feel tired during a shift? Professor Stephanie Centofanti from the University of South Australia suggests having a coffee immediately prior to a short nap (known as a caffeine-nap) to stay alert during a night shift.