Are you part of an after-hours movement or a dawn watcher? Are your working hours confusing? Whether you just nodded in agreement or yawned, chances are you’re one of the many shift workers struggling with erratic sleep schedules and burnout and searching for lasting security.
Well, the good news is that technology can help you sleep better, improve your productivity, and improve your overall well-being. Because who said that technology is only for people of the day?
Understanding the challenges of shift work
If you’re a shift worker who dances to the beat of changing work schedules, your sleep cycle is probably all over the place. That means your internal clock is playing the red light game, green light everyone is in cruise control.
This will not only leave you with a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. It can have a real, tangible impact on your physical and mental well-being.
Not only can you stop being tired, but shift work can affect your overall health. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and don’t forget mood swings. Once you’re as happy as a cat chasing a laser pointer, you’re angrier than a bear with a thorn in its paw.
Throw things like social isolation (who’s up for a 3 AM movie night on a Tuesday?) into the mix and you have a complete picture of the reality of the shift worker. However, it is not all doom and gloom.
Sleep monitoring and optimization
The first tool in your digital toolbox is a powerful sleep tracker. These great devices are like personal sleep scientists, tracking your nightly (or daytime, for that matter) escape to gather valuable information about your sleep.
Brands like Fitbit, Garmin, and Oura offer devices that aren’t just cool pieces of tech to show off at your next after-hours meeting. They are also packed with sensors that can detect heart rate, temperature, movement and more. Once you’re out in dreamland, these devices are hard at work, giving you an overview of your sleep patterns and the quality of your rest.
But these devices don’t just collect data, they’re also coaches, offering personalized insights and recommendations to improve sleep.
Light therapy for circadian rhythm regulation
Picture this: you’re basking in the light of a sunrise or sunset, all while sitting in your comfortable bed. It’s not a scene from a sci-fi flick, but a real tool in your tech to help you manage your circadian rhythm.
It’s all about exposure to certain wavelengths of light at systematic times. Does science speak volumes? Let’s put it this way: you’re tricking your internal body clock into believing it’s time to wake up or sleep.
Take the Philips Wake-Up Light, for example. This gadget gradually increases the intensity of the light before your set alarm time, gently pulling it from the earth of the node. Sunrise is like waking up, even when it’s dark outside.
And the magic doesn’t stop there. Such devices can resemble a sunset, giving your body a hint that it is time to wind down, even if the outside world (or in your mind) is busy with activities.
But light therapy isn’t limited to your bedroom. Ever heard of f.lux or Night Shift? These software solutions adjust your device’s screens to the time of day, reduce harsh blue light and produce warmer colors during the designated “nighttime” period.
This helps prepare your body for sleep and avoid the dangers of irregular light exposure. That said, while f.lux and Night Shift can improve your sleep habits, they’re not a cure-all.
Using wearables to monitor body battery levels
In your next toolkit to conquer shift work: wearables! These technological accessories are much more than fashion statements.
Most of these devices use some kind of “body battery” gauge, which is not a source to charge your smartphone. It’s a way to understand the state of your nervous system. It’s like you have a personal power meter that lets you know when you’re running on empty and need to hit the bag, or when you’re ready to take on the world (or at least your shift).
The body battery gauge represents the amount of energy in your body. It uses various data points such as stress, heart rate variability (HRV) and sleep to calculate how full or depleted you are.
Companies like Garmin have jumped on this bandwagon to keep your heart rate on your body’s energy. Consider your personalized fuel gauge. Is it time to rest and recharge, or can you skip another episode of your favorite late-night series? Your wearer will tell you.
You’re probably thinking, “I already have a wristwatch, it’s called a watch.” You’re right, and you can still join the party. There are a whole bunch of sleep apps that you can check out. For example, apps can learn how to improve your circadian rhythm for better sleep or find the best sleep app for you.
Sleep health community and support forums
Let’s dive into a little less silicon and a little more heart: community and support platforms! Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of camaraderie that comes with knowing you’re not alone on this time-travel journey.
Sometimes, all you need is a good old-fashioned conversation with someone who just gets it. A breath that comes punching like no other. The joy of finding a late-night restaurant open when your stomach decides it’s lunch time.
Forums like Nurses’ Support Nurses, Night Shift Support Group or Night Shift Workers are places where you can share your experiences, seek advice, vent about a tough shift, or laugh at a fellow shift worker’s joke.
Using Tech to Overcome the Challenges of Shift Work
From sleep tracking devices that rival the Personal Sleep Scientist and light therapy devices to manage your own personal sunrises and sunsets, to wearables that provide insight into your energy levels and irreplaceable community support platforms, it’s safe to say that technology is offering solutions on a silver platter. .
Remember, every day (or night) is a new opportunity to make a shift work, well, for you. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to become the mastermind behind the moonlighting productivity that everyone sees.