Do As I Say, Not As I Do
I do not know about you but I used to hear, "Do as I say, not as I do," all the time from my parents. I know that as sleep techs we are not perfect, but we really should follow our own advice. I have worked in labs, I have sent students out to labs and I chat with my fellow techs all the time. It amazes me how bad our sleep hygiene is.
With all the current research on night shift work and the effect it has on our health, it is more important than ever to try to be a model for our patients. Night shift is known for packing on the pounds, causing us to be sleep deprived and decreasing our immunity. But if we tried to do things to help us work optimally, we might feel a little better and we might also convince our patients how important the hygiene part of their therapy is.
Current research has shown that some of the issues have to do with genetics and the fact that when we change our circadian rhythm our cells are not able to adapt to those changes. We cannot change that fact, but we can limit the light we are exposed to by wearing sun glasses for the drive home. We could use a light therapy light for part of the night while we are at work. We could cut down on the caffeine and snack on healthier foods such as almond and fruit during the night rather than chips or cookies.
It is not that I think any change is easy or that working nights is easy. I raised my two children while working nights and now I watch my son work night shift. I also know there is the likelihood that I will do night shift again someday as I miss working with my patients. But if I do, I now know that in order for my health to be optimal I have to do the things I dislike most -- such as exercise and eat healthy -- as I consider my health and my being an example as part of my job.