If you’ve been tirelessly working long shifts, you’re well aware of the struggle — your head starts to swim, focus falls apart, and you can become confused. Experiencing all of this during the middle of your shift at a bustling hospital or clinic makes something rather obvious… proper sleep habits for doctors are incredibly important!
Although you’d expect healthcare professionals and doctors to recommend a good night’s rest without batting an eye, it’s not always that they are able to practice what they preach. Whether you’ve been adjusting to a new time zone for your latest locum tenens physician assignment or are just starting your career as a doctor, sleep will always be important. And despite all of the information available on the health benefits of sleep and the potential hazards of getting too little of it, this year saw a concerning change in requirements for the hours that new graduates can work. Since July 1st of this year, rookie doctors have been allowed to work 24-48 hour shifts without a break — an increase from the previous 16-hour cap.
Promoting Proper Sleep Habits for Doctors
If medical school wasn’t grueling enough, these new rules may have cleared the way for even more sleep-deprived healthcare professionals. And though the idea was to reflect the reality of shift changes and those working in emergency situations, it’s important to practice these proper sleep habits for doctors:
1. A Setting for Sleep
In addition to working in a new environment and location, locum tenens physicians absolutely need to focus on developing a sleep routine to fit their professional life. Above all else, it’s important to make sure that when you can finally get some shut-eye that your sleeping quarters are designed for resting up efficiently. Clear that laundry off your bed ahead of time, set an automatic kettle to brew some calming tea, and keep the lights low to prepare your brain for sleep. Since you may be going down as the sun is coming up, we recommend investing in some thick shades to really create the nocturnal environment you need to snag some Z’s.
2. Cut the Caffeine
Although coffee is worth its weight in gold to many people across the world, it can become a burden to those looking to power down when the time is right. Here’s the real question you need to ask yourself — would you need coffee if you slept better? Would you sleep better if you didn’t have to drink coffee? This is a cycle that can repeat itself over and over, taking a toll on your health each time! Sure, caffeine can be the light at the end of your shift’s tunnel vision, but it might be in your best interest to consider what alternatives are out there in order to work toward the proper sleep habits for doctors.
3. Monitor your Circadian Rhythm
Locum tenens physicians are going to find themselves in new locations, time zones, and climates — all things that can make honing in on your sleep habits rather difficult. Luckily, there are numerous devices aimed at helping people measure their sleep and learn ways to maximize the amount of rest they receive. In many cases, these devices connect directly to your smartphone to provide data on things like heart rate, restlessness while asleep, and even how long you’ve gotten to enjoy the REM cycle. If you’re the type of person who needs specific instructions to really change your habits, then consider the fitness tracker and smartphone route!
4. Blue Light Special
While it’s tempting to dig into your various social media feeds or that binge-worthy Hulu series, it’s advised that you avoid artificial light sources right before heading off to sleep. Basically, the spectrum of light produced by many modern electronics contains blue wavelengths that inhibit the production of melatonin, a sleep-wake cycle regulating hormone. By holding your phone near your face or staring at a monitor, you’re essentially telling your brain that it’s time to rise when all it wants is to fall deeply into sleep!
Try your best to stay on a standard routine if you really want to develop proper sleep habits for doctors. We know it’s not easy. Between traveling, working, and everything else, there’s rarely time to really wind down. Still, if you’ve found a way to ensure you get great rest each night, let us know your secret in the comments below!