Sleep Cycles, Shift Work and Training

I work shift work. Shift work can screw up your sleep cycles pretty badly. Add in crazy training, and kids, and life… well, it gets a little crazy.

When I work day shifts, I work a 10 hour day. We have flexible start times, with the ability to start any time between 7 am and 9 am, which means the shift ends between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. My commute is 30 minutes each way. And no matter how hard I try, it takes me at least 40 minutes (usually 50+) to shower, dress, do my hair & makeup, etc. This means that in order to be at work by 7:00, I have to get up at 5:45…. if I want to get a workout in, I have to get up at 5:15, and go in to work at either 7:30 or 8:00.

Now, for those of you who don’t have kids, the obvious answer may be to just start later, and work later, right? Except when I work days, Bruce and the boys kind of like to see me at the dinner table – preferably well before 8:00 pm!

Then there is the night shift – right now, my schedule is one month of days, then one month of nights. Working nights, I work from 5:00 pm to 3:30 am. This is actually easier to deal with – I generally get to bed by about 5:00 am, and get up between 11:00 am and noon. I can then get a run or a bike ride in before getting ready for work.

However, I’m finding my sleep patterns are all messed up right now. I’m trying to get to bed by 11:00 pm every night I work, in order to be able to get up when the alarm goes off at 5:15. That is still only 6 hours of sleep, not nearly enough. As it is, I rarely get to bed by 11:00, either. And I’ve never been a morning person to begin with – it is my belief that the only reason to be up at 5:15 am is because I haven’t gone to bed yet…. 😉

So I’m trying very hard to balance my shifts, my training, and my sleeping. Early morning workouts are brutal – I can manage a bike ride, or an easy run, but my current training calls for several hard runs a week, and those have to be scheduled on my days off. If I try to finish a hard workout in the early morning, I usually struggle and wind up quitting part way through.

As well, I’m having issues with sleep in general – for several weeks, I was waking up several times a night, struggling to get to sleep at all, and waking up covered in sweat. The last time this happened (a few years ago), I was suffering from high anxiety at work, but that’s not the case right now (I was also having horrible dreams at that time too – I’m not having them now). I have tried to reduce my caffeine consumption, especially after 6:00 pm, which seems to be helping. I’m also trying to end my hard workouts no later than 9:00 pm, in an effort to properly cool down before getting to bed. Things have been getting a bit better since making these changes. I’m trying to figure out what the issue is – I’m training like crazy, I’m eating well, I should be sleeping like a log!

If things don’t get better when I return to the night shift this weekend, I’m considering trying a 10-15 meditation session before bedtime. I’ve never been one to focus too much on meditation, but it may be worth an attempt.

Any suggestions?

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