What to do about hubby's overnight shift?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 05, 2013 at 5:31 AM

I need some help from you wonderful folks. I have been lurking, on and off, for some time now and most of my questions have already been answered, so THANK YOU!

My husband works 12am-8am. There is absolutely NO way he can change this shift (police officer and unless someone dies or retires, he's stuck on this shift for at least the next couple of years). He isn't getting decent quality of sleep, but it's better now that we're eating about 80% paleo (working toward 100%). But, since I know sleep is a cornerstone of this approach to diet, I feel like we're about as "good" as it can get right now: he cannot sleep at night. He has been sleeping most of the time (approx 6 hours) during the daytime hours and then approx 90 min at night before getting ready to go to work. That seems to be helping a bit.

Can anybody help me with what I can do to help him? We are loving the paleo diet so far and it's helping with many of our health problems in just a few weeks. However, I know the sleep component is extremely important. Any ideas? (And please no smart comments about "Get a new job!" We know. This economy sucks and he's in grad school to get a better job. He's sending out about 15 resumes a week. There is literally nothing we can do until somebody hires him and we can't force people to hire him. If we could, I wouldn't be asking this question.)

We've tried eye masks and even him wrapping his whole head in a towel for darkness during the day (that one scared me!). We have light blocking curtains that I have beefed up with extra dark fabric sewn on the backside of them, plus them being extra long to fully cover the windows. The only way he seems to get a good quality of sleep is by taking sleep aids, which aren't good for the human body when used constantly for years.

Any thoughts?

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5 Answers



on March 05, 2013
at 06:07 AM

Some suggestions:

  • Small doses of melatonin and Magnesium right before he goes to bed. 5000 IU D3 before he goes to work (get tested once a year for toxicity though). No other sleep aids.

  • He MUST get on the sun (with some of the body exposed) for at least 20 minutes a day.

  • Three meals a day (absolutely no gluten), timed in a way that resembles a normal day, but shifted in time.

  • Ear plugs.

  • UVB-blocking amber glasses ($10) from Amazon to wear 1-2 hours while he's supposed to be sleeping during the day, but he can't.

BTW, I know this is not what you want to hear, but if he stays stuck in that timeshift, he's going to get worse health-wise over time, and no amount of Paleo diet can fix it. Our bodies evolved in a specific manner, we're supposed to follow the day, we work best this way. But if our internal clock goes off, a lot of other other things will get off after that.



on March 05, 2013
at 04:11 PM

I signed up just to answer this for you in hopes of helping. I, like your husbamd, work the same shift as a security officer. I can't change jobs etc. So, I just have to make the best of it and, I've learned a lot about sleeping like this. First, he needs to sleep at the same time EVERY day (including days off.) One big problem that we cause as nightworkers is changing our sleep over the days we have off and then we have a confused schedule again. You're doing great with the window blocking. No TV, cellphone, computer (electronics with a screen) at least 1 to 2 hours before bed. Ideally he'll start preparing for sleep an hour before he lies down. I start with eating a banana (trytophan and magnesium) then I get out of the bright lights and find a comfortable spot to read a paper book or I will listen to quiet music and start getting into the mindset of sleeping. Gentle yoga or just some nice stretching is fine. He should be thinking about sleep and how comfortable his bed is and the soft pillow etc. If he decides to read then he should be paying attention to his body when it starts saying it's bedtime. A good loose leaf chamomile tea is great to relax with. Other options for this ritual could be a warm bath or shower in a dimly lit bathroom (candles anyone?) A nice massage if you're feeling like it. The whole point is to be winding down. Especially with high stress jobs adding to a high stress sleep schedule. When he actually gets to lay down he should lay on his back with his eyes closed and physically relax. Starting with wiggling his toes and thinking about every muscle individually. Doing this all the way to his head. By now he should be very relaxed, his banana should be setting in along with the natural melatonin from staying in low-light and dark rooms.

This seems like a lot of work but, he should start seeing improvements in his sleep. No, it's not the ideal shift, not healthy, not "paleo" but, we do what we have to get by in life and sleeping with this shift is an artform that requires practice. Ideally he will not do the split sleep he is currently doing. I try to sleep by 2 and wake up at 9. If he does wake up early, no food or juices, just water. It won't help any to start up digestion when you're really supposed to be sleeping.

I hope this helps you and your husband and I hope his future and days get brighter if he is hired for a new job. Good luck!


on March 05, 2013
at 03:01 PM

I work a rotating shift and many mids shifts while in the military. This is what I do.

  1. Magnesium before bed and if I am just starting the shift I use melatonin for a couple of days to transition. Once I have been on it a few days I dont need the melatonin.

  2. D3 during the day

  3. Sleeping mask

  4. earplugs

  5. blackout curtains

  6. white noise



on March 05, 2013
at 08:02 AM

Honestly - black towels have done wonders - I also know officers to have put up cardboard then tin foil on their windows (the cardboard is so you can't see the tin foil) followed by the black towels. To get that total darkness -- I will inquire with my friends who are officers and see if they have any ideas.

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on March 05, 2013
at 05:33 PM

I get thrown on night shifts randomly for a couple days at a time, and have to make the best of it. I try to force a nap in the afternoon before. I drink coffee until midnight, and eat a big meal then. I sleep as long as I can right off shift, blocking light as best I can with a pillow.

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