Ask the ASA: Work Versus Sleep

Welcome to Ask the ASA, a regular feature that allows our visitors to ask questions and receive answers from the American Sleep Association!  Use our contact form to send in your questions (or send them to us via Facebook or Twitter), and we’ll select the best ones to receive answers from the ASA.

This time around, Dr. Neil Kline from the ASA addresses a question about work getting in the way of sleep:

I work on a boat where we do six hour watches and have six hours off to sleep, contact family, etc. The past couple of days I been having issues of trying to fall asleep. Is there anything I can do to help my sleep patterns while on the boat?

In general, humans are creatures of habit. We have evolved to sleep during the nighttime and be awake during the daytime. Most adults require about 8 hours of sleep. For the most part, we do better when we sleep at night, and in one continuous sleep period. When we diverge from habit and design, sleep problems can emerge. Insomnia is a common problem that arises when we try to change our sleep schedule to a different one. The best thing to do is try to normalize the sleep schedule and obtain adequate total sleep time. Everything else is just a patch to try to fix the symptoms. Bright light in the morning can help to reset the clock. Avoiding bright light in the hours before sleep can also help set the stage.

Dr. Neil Kline is a representative of American Sleep Association. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.  For more information on the ASA, visit their website.

Questions for the ASA are edited for clarity.