4 Tips for Sleeping Well While Working Locums Away from Home
Experiencing new communities is one of the premier benefits of locum tenens. Part of that experience often entails being away from home and may even include a different time zone. Luckily, ensuring a good night’s (or day’s, depending on your schedule) rest while on assignment can be as easy as A, B, Zzz. The following tips from the experts at TheSleepDoctor.com are sure to have you feeling refreshed and ready to provide quality care to patients at your assignment facility.
Minimize Air Travel Fatigue
Jet lag typically comes with long flights crossing multiple time zones in one trip and can linger for a day or two after arriving at your destination. However, travel fatigue can set in when flying short distances and lead to headaches, tiredness, general physical discomfort, and even a little discombobulation by the end of a travel day. To minimize the effects of air travel fatigue, turn off electronics during the flight and use the downtime to rest as much as possible.
Counteract First-Night Effect
According to a sleep study at Brown University, the brain kicks into a different degree of alertness on the first night of sleeping in an unfamiliar setting. Researchers found that the left hemisphere maintained a more active stance throughout the night but was less alert on subsequent nights. This has been coined the “first-night effect.” Plus, sleep experts suspect a change of environment induces a reaction in an individual’s circadian rhythm, which could diminish the quality of sleep on that first night.
There are a few techniques that can lessen the first-night effect and improve your rest, such as maintaining your sleep schedule regardless of time zones. In other words, if you usually go to bed around 10 p.m. at home, then go to bed at 10 p.m. in your new time zone, too. Also, arriving in the afternoon or evening may ease the adjustment and set you up for a better night’s rest.
Employ Sleep Aids
Even though research suggests the brain quickly acclimates to its new environment, utilizing a few non-medicinal sleep aids can encourage healthy sleeping for the duration of your locum tenens assignment.
- Eye mask – Blocking out light, especially in an unfamiliar room, sets the stage for the body and mind to settle down from the day.
- Ear plugs – Asking for hotel rooms on upper floors and far from elevators and stairwells can help diminish environmental noises, but there are still sounds during the night (or day, if you are working night shifts) that can interrupt your sleep. Ear plugs further mute noises. Or use a white noise app to help lull you to sleep.
- Familiar linens – Bringing a pillowcase, pillow, or blanket from home offers a touch of comfort that can help induce relaxation. (See our blog, “Establishing a Sense of Home While Working Locum Tenens,” for more tips on creating a welcoming home-away-from-home.)
Develop Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Sleep specialists describe sleep hygiene as proactive behaviors or routines that signal the brain it is time to unwind and prepare for slumber. Recommendations include:
- Choosing a physical behavior that helps muscles relax from the day’s work (e.g., a shower, meditation, or stretches).
- Setting the thermostat to a sleep-friendly temperature. While the degree varies from person to person, cooler temps tend to encourage more restful sleep.
- Turning off electronics. Although watching television or catching up on emails and social media may seem like a good way to chill out, research indicates the blue light emanating from screens delays the body’s natural release of melatonin, which induces sleep.
- Reading for enjoyment (preferably not from an e-reader), however, does help welcome relaxation and sleep.
Another benefit to working locum tenens is that you are free from many of the administrative duties associated with staff positions that prolong the workday. More of your downtime can be used to refresh yourself with a good night’s rest so you are ready for the next shift.