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Ask Dr. Lisa: Problem Adjusting to Normal Sleep Schedule?

You’ve got questions, and Dr. Lisa Shives, our sleep expert, will answer them!  We gather sleep questions from our Facebook page, and Dr. Shives answers them right here.  In this installment, Dr. Lisa answers a question from someone having trouble switching back from an overnight work schedule…

Gary Stewart asks: I believe that part of my sleeping problem is that I worked swing shifts for many years. Now that I am retired I can’t seem to adjust to sleeping during normal night time hours. I get tired at various times of day or night. What is the best way to set a stable night time sleep pattern for myself?

Dr. Lisa says: One of the harder things to do when it comes to adjusting sleep patterns is to switch to an overnight shift. It’s not a natural sleep state for humans, but can be done with some discipline. Bigger problems come when you’re expected to work during the day one week and during the night the next. Now that you’re retired, switching back to an “awake during the day and sleep during the night” schedule generally should be easier, which makes me concerned that you may have developed a disorder related to your circadian rhythms. My recommendation is that you undergo a sleep test with an experienced sleep doctor.

For those who find that they have to change their sleep schedule, here are general tips:

  • Set your wake-up time — and then stick to it like glue
  • Seek light, particularly right after waking up (if possible)
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
  • Put yourself in a position where you can sleep. Buy comfortable bedding and use room-darkening shades if you must sleep during the day.

Dr. Shives works with SleepBetter.org to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Learn more about Dr. Lisa Shives by clicking here.