This is the first week of the challenge where Lisa Walsh has had night shifts to contend with. She was working from 8pm to 7am on Saturday and Sunday and then went to bed at 7.30am on Monday morning.
“I’m not sure whether this was the right or the wrong thing, but I made myself get up at midday,” Walsh says. “I went to bed at my normal time of 11.30 that evening. I would like to know whether that was the right thing to do. I still felt a bit jet lagged on Tuesday but probably not as bad as I normally would.”
By Thursday she says she still feels a bit groggy but it is improving. “Monday was tough, I felt quite dizzy and sick for a lot of the day after getting up at 12 so I’m not sure it was the right decision,” she says. She would like some specific advice on what to do after working nights.
The challenge is certainly alerting her to factors that affect her sleep. “I’m noticing that exercise has a huge effect on my mood and how I feel when I get up,” she says. Advice about hydration has also been useful. “I drink loads of water in the summer but I forget during the winter and this has alerted me to that... I’m also eating dinners now, which I hadn’t been doing before this.”
Alcohol has an effect as well. “I had my first glass of wine, since starting the study, last night,” Walsh says. “I woke and was wide awake at 3am in the morning. It must have been the wine. I would never have connected the two. I’ve noticed stress also has a big effect on my sleep.”
The recommended bedtime of 10pm remains a non-starter for Walsh. “It’s just never going to happen,” she says. “That hour after all the kids are in bed is the only time I have to myself and I need that time.”
Dr John Faul is a respiratory physician and sleep specialist at the Hermitage Medical Clinic. During the Sleep Challenge he will be providing practical input on how people can improve their sleep.
Dr Faul comments: Listening to your body is key and this is really good advice, but just be aware that this can be deceptive. Some people need to sleep after long shifts, but are too alert to switch off. Others find they are too tired to sleep which is a significant problem. In cases like these, a hypnotic drug or drink can help. Sleep tablets are commonly prescribed and are useful for periods of insomnia. Their use is most helpful in subjects who need to get to sleep who don't have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea. Well done on the efforts to keep hydrated and keep the meals regular. You seem to be noticing the difference exercise makes as well. As you said, it may not be perfect, but if you can get things to a point where they are good enough, that is definite progress.