Solving sleep problems for night shift workers

Solid sleep each day is crucial for good health.

It’s the worst when you can’t sleep. You’re tired and groggy, more apt to make mistakes and less creative. We knew we might get a number of submissions when we held a contest asking people to tell us their sleep nightmares. Did we ever.  And solving sleep problems is a huge issue for night shift workers.

There was the Irish man who used to live in west Ireland “where the cows and sheep were the noisiest things around” but now lives right next to six-lane Highway 101 in San Francisco. He’s tried thick carpets, double curtains and upholstered furniture to soak up the sound, but the noise inside his apartment still registers 55-60 decibels while he sleeps. A woman from Virginia lives near Oceana Naval Air Station, a U.S. Navy Master Jet Base, which flies jets over her home on an almost nightly basis: “They fly so low, I can see the color and shape of the patches on the sleeves of the pilots. Wave at them, they will wave back.” There was the New York City woman whose teenage neighbors across the courtyard play head banging music until 3 a.m. on weekends.

Our hearts went out to everyone suffering a sleep nightmare, but we decided to award the prize – an Indow sleep panel up to $250 – to two night shift nurses out to solve sleep problems. Brenda and her fiance Jacob are two recent nursing graduates working night shifts at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in California. If they were going to work night shifts, they didn’t want to also commute and couldn’t find any apartments in quiet residential areas within walking distance of the hospital. So they ended up across from the Northridge Fashion Center mall. And. six. lanes. of. traffic. Their landlord assured them the apartment had double-pane windows but after moving in, they learned it didn’t. Brenda, who works on the medical surgical unit, can sleep through most anything. But Jacob, who works on the cardiac unit, is one of many night shift nurses out to solve sleep problems.

Since moving in last fall, they have bought heavy duty blackout curtains. He wears earplugs and takes Benadryl and melatonin. They’ve tried soothing ocean sounds and turning the temperature down to 70 degrees since it’s easier to sleep in a cool room. But “when something really loud passes by like a car, it wakes me,” said Jacob.

The two settle down for sleep around 8:30 a.m. each day. Jacob hears the cars and trucks driving by, the pedestrians headed to the mall, the Amtrak train blowing its horn a mile away, the gardener with his lawnmower and weed wacker.

“I have five patients under my care and he has three or four under his care,” said Brenda. “Being awake and alert as possible is definitely a must. And in general, it’s no fun being groggy and tired and sleep deprived most of the time. It’s no fun at all.”

Definitely not. Anyone who cares for the sick, needs to stay as healthy as possible. And getting good sleep each night is one of the best things anyone can do for their long-term health. Indow’s Sleep Panel blocks out all light and more than 50 percent of sound. Once Brenda and Jacob get their’s, we’ll report back on how it’s helped Jacob wake up from his sleep nightmare.