Tag night shift

Sleepy During the Night Shift? Try These Tips.


“How can I stay alert at 3 am?” asks Twilight, an ICU nurse who has been working nights for years. She knows that our internal pacemaker (SupraChiasmatic Nucleus) makes us sleepy at night and alert during the day. How can you go against the might of Mother Nature? Well, it is tough, but you can summon the help of these seven friends.

  1. Stay Active
  2. Take a PREM nap
  3. Massage Your Tender Points
  4. Look at the Light Often
  5. Enjoy a Cup of Coffee
  6. Snack Smartly
  7. Seek Spiritual Help (My All-time Favorite)

And beware of a formidable foe in alcohol when faced with insufficient sleep and long days. Let us discuss them one by one.

Stay Active

The Alertness starts declining the longer you stay still. One way to prevent this is to “deskercise” every hour. Deskercising will also help you to reduce muscle tension and stress while helping you preserve the flexibility, strength, and muscle tone you already have. The following are some simple deskercising techniques to try:

The Wrist Muscle Stretch

When working at the computer, stop occasionally and deskercize using the wrist muscle stretch. Slowly stretch your wrist muscles by using a full range of motion. Joints that have become sore and stiff because of repetitive motion activity will respond to slow stretches. Do not risk pulling a muscle by attempting the stretch rapidly. Get the full benefit of the stretch by doing it slowly.

The Pectoral Stretch

The following is an easy stretch you can do at your desk. Simply clasp your hands behind you head and slowly move your shoulders and elbows back. Repeat this a few times. It is a great way to stretch your pectoral and chest muscles.

Wrist Flexion

Using your left palm, gently apply force to the right hand, causing the right wrist to stretch toward the underside of the right arm. Hold it there for five seconds and then release and repeat on the left hand. Repeat the exercise five times.

Wrist Hyperextension

Using the left palm, slowly apply force to bend the right hand backward. Hold it there for five seconds and then release and repeat to the left hand. Repeat the exercise five times.

Sitting Bend

In a sitting position, with your feet flat on the floor, your knees about ten inches apart and hands at your sides, bend over as far comfortable with your hands reaching toward the floor. Hold the position for five seconds and then slowly pull back into a sitting position while tightening your abdominal muscles. Repeat four times. This exercise stretches your lower back muscles and hamstrings.

Vertical Stretches

Vertical stretches provide an excellent way to reduce tension and activate all of your major muscle groups. With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift yourself upward on your toes and extend your arms over your head. Reach each hand as high as possible for about seven seconds and then relax. Repeat four times.

Get Up and Walk Around

Sitting too long can have several negative effects. It’s important to get up and walk around at least once each hour. A ten-minute walk around the office would be excellent. But, when that’s not possible, shorter walks to the water cooler, filing cabinet, or restroom are better than nothing.

When you are working at desk, get up at least once every twenty minutes and move around. 

  • Take a PREM (Patel’s Relaxed Eye Muscles) Nap. Studies have shown that a fifteen-minute nap can improve alertness and last for almost three hours.  This can be life saving when taken before driving back home after bight shift.
  • Massage Your Tender Spots. Gently massaging your calf muscles, your neck, and your temple area can improve alertness by relieving muscle aches, back pain, headaches, burning in the eyes, and other distracting physical symptoms precipitated by sleep deprivation. Untreated, these symptoms can drag your energy level and your alertness down.
  • Look at the Bright Light Often. It has a tremendous alerting influence. Use this to your advantage. Sit facing bright light. Put a bright light lamp behind your desktop while working on it.
  • Enjoy a Cup of Coffee. Caffeine has alerting property, but it has the duration of action of twenty-four hours, so a cup of coffee consumed at 2 AM is still in your bloodstream at 8 AM when your brain is trying to fall asleep. Because of this reason, caffeine should not be used indiscriminately. It should be used as medicine, at the right dosage, at the right time, and for the right reason.
  • Snack Smartly. Eat a Protein Snack Every 2-3 Hour. I will maintain your energy and alertness while eating a large starchy meal will degrade your alertness. Avoid rice, pasta, and dessert.
  • Seek Spiritual Support. Spiritual support has helped me the most during my drives to ER at 2 AM. I would ask for divine help. “Give me energy, my Lord, to serve my patients well.”

Do you have a particular trick that works best for you? Which of the above intervention has helped you most?

This blog post is dedicated to my good friend Mahesh Patel MD who has devoted his life to saving premature babies in Bismarck, ND, and millions like him who have spent nights after nights serving others. God Bless You All.

Adopted from the book “Sleep Well, Lead Well” now available on Amazon

Anxiety Insomnia? Learn Progressive Muscle Relaxation & Shavasan.

Collage of varius Gray's muscle pictures by Mi...

(Mikael Häggström) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before a long and challenging day at work, I sometimes find it difficult to relax at bedtime. As a result of this, I find it difficult to fall asleep, which makes it difficult for me to enjoy my work the next day. To counteract this, I have learned and successfully used progressive muscle relaxation.

The  technique  is  simple:  

1. Lie  flat   on   your   back   in   bed   with   your   arms   resting   at   your   sides.  

2. Slowly   breathe  in  and  out.  

3. One  by  one,  tighten  and  then  completely  and   pleasantly   relax   each   muscle,   starting   with   the   scalp   muscles   and   moving  down  to  the  face  muscles (eyes, lips, cheeks),  neck,  shoulder,  chest,  arms,  abdomen,  back,  legs,  and  all  the  way  to  the  toe  muscles.  

4. Repeat   this   process   several   times   until   you   achieve   complete   relaxation.

The  goal  is  to  achieve  a  sense  of  complete  weightlessness  through   total   physical  relaxation.

Ready to relax even more? Learn Shavasan (Shav means corpse, Asana means posture). You may initially find it morbid and dark, but it certainly takes the whole relaxation process a lot further. During Shavasana, you not only aim for a total physical relaxation, but also for a complete and total mental inertia.

How can you achieve Shavasan? Well, you go through above mentioned four steps, and then try to achieve a state of the compete thoughtlessness. You basically try to lay there like a dead person; no muscle tone, no mental activity, no awareness of external or internal activity! This is what makes this the toughest of all Yoga postures. But, with practice and patience, you will keep on improving. Keep trying and you shall sleep better.

Besides improving your deep sleep, the progressive muscle relaxation and Shavasan provides the following benefits:

  • a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration
  • a decrease in blood pressure
  • a decrease in metabolic rate and the consumption of oxygen
  • a reduction in general anxiety
  • a reduction in the number and frequency of panic attacks
  • an increase in energy levels and in general productivity
  • an improvement in concentration and in memory
  • a decrease in fatigue

Relax, sleep & enjoy life.

Racing Mind Causing Insomnia? Learn Mindfulness.

Photo Credit: Alice Campos Magalhaes

Photo Credit: Alice Campos Magalhaes

Too excited? Worried? Wired up? Can’t turn your mind off at bedtime? I too have experienced this occasionally prior to a big fat Indian wedding, or a busy week in the clinic, or a major change at work, or even before an exciting vacation trip. How can you turn the mind off and then sleep like a baby? Studies have shown that Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) works better and for a longer period of time than do medications. And mindfulness is one of the techniques recommended as part of CBT-I. It calms your mind at bedtime, gently pushes away those intrusive thoughts and lets you fall asleep. Learn the technique. It is not difficult. Try it, learn it, practice it, and you shall avoid the side effects of the sleeping pills.

“Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”

During mindfulness practice, we are trying to achieve a mind that is stable and calm. What we begin to discover is that this calmness or harmony is a natural aspect of the mind. Through mindfulness practice we are just developing and strengthening it, and eventually we are able to remain peacefully in our mind without struggling. Our mind naturally feels content. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Create a favorable environment. It is good if the place where you meditate, even if it’s only a small space in your bedroom, has a feeling of sacredness.

Begin with baby steps. I encourage people to meditate frequently but for short periods of time—ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. If you force it too much, the practice can take on too much of a personality, and training the mind should be very, very simple.

Create a sense of discipline. When we sit down, we can remind ourselves: “I’m here to work on my mind. I’m here to train my mind.” It’s OK to say that to yourself when you sit down, literally. We need that kind of inspiration as we begin to practice.

Maintain an erect posture. The Buddhist approach is that the mind and body are connected. The energy flows better when the body is erect, and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process. People who need to use a chair for meditation should sit upright with their feet touching the ground. Those using a meditation cushion such as a zafu or gomden should find a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm-down on your thighs. The hips are neither rotated forward too much, nor tilted back so you start slouching. You should have a feeling of stability and strength.

Maintain a soft downward gaze. For strict mindfulness practice, the gaze should be downward focusing a couple of inches in front of your nose. The eyes are open but not staring; your gaze is soft. We are trying to reduce sensory input as much as we can.

Focus on your breathing. When we do the mindfulness practice, we become more and more familiar with our mind, and in particular we learn to recognize the movement of the mind, which we experience as thoughts. We do this by using an object of meditation to provide a contrast or counterpoint to what’s happening in our mind. As soon as we go off and start thinking about something, awareness of the object of meditation will bring us back. We could put a rock in front of us and use it to focus our mind, but using the breath as the object of meditation is particularly helpful because it relaxes us. As you start the practice, you have a sense of your body and a sense of where you are, and then you begin to notice the breathing. The whole feeling of the breath is very important. The breath should not be forced, obviously; you are breathing naturally. The breath is going in and out, in and out. With each breath you become relaxed.

Pleasantly Ignore your thoughts. No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should say to yourself, “That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practicing meditation.” It gets down to how honest we are, how true we can be to ourselves, during each session. Everyone gets lost in thought sometimes. You might think, “I can’t believe I got so absorbed in something like that,” but try not to make it too personal. Just try to be as unbiased as possible. The mind will be wild and we have to recognize that. We can’t push ourselves. We notice that we have been lost in thought, we mentally label it “thinking”—gently and without judgment—and we come back to the breath. When we have a thought—no matter how wild or bizarre it may be—we just let it go and come back to the breath, come back to the situation here.

What we are talking about is very practical. Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. And because we are working with the mind that experiences life directly, just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.

(From Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, the great nineteenth-century Buddhist teacher. Published in the January 2000 issue of the Shambhala Sun.)

Happy Learning. Sleep Well, Live Well.

Starting Your Day Tired? 10 Ways You Can Rejuvenate As You Work.

Keep Smiling!

Keep Smiling!

We often feel tired at the end of a long day. What can we do if we feel tired at the beginning of a long day? Here are 10 ways you can rejuvenate your mind and body as you keep working. You can use these tips at the beginning of a night shift too.

1. Be compassionate to the self. Give yourself permission to be tired. Accept it honestly.

2. Talk less. Listen more. You will be amazed how often we can find ways to be quiet and give the much needed rest to our vocal cords.

3. Focus on your breathing. Be pleasantly mindful of your body, your thoughts, and your emotions.

4. Stretch, stretch, stretch. Stretch your back, neck, and legs. This will help reduce those distracting aches and pains.

5. Pray on the go. Unshakeable faith can help bring the best out of us. “God, rejuvenate me as I serve my customers well.”

6. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen the fatigue. Also, dry mouth can be a distracting symptom especially when tired.

7. Avoid carbohydrate rich meals.

8. Look at bright light. This will uplift your alertness.

9. Smile and keep smiling. Fake smile stimulates the same areas of the brain as a genuine smile. Negative emotions will drain you, positive emotions will energize you.

10. Be confident. You have pulled through this before and you can pull through this again. Great leaders and legendary athletes always put their best performance when faced with tiredness, illness, and other stressors. You can do the same.

Were these tips helpful? Which one is your favorite? Do you have any tips to share with us?

5 Tips to Help Keep Your Bedroom Dark

English: By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic.

Image via Wikipedia


Pineal gland, a tiny structure located at the base of the brain secrets melatonin, a powerful sleep-promoting agent. Based on our internal rhythm, this secretion starts in the evening approximately two hours prior to sleep onset and peaks 2 hours prior to wakefulness. This whole process leading to melatonin secretion is extremely sensitive to bright light. Light emanating from even a tiny phone screen can reduce this secretion and prevent you from falling asleep and getting enough deep sleep. Here, are a few tips to help you maximize your internal melatonin secretion.

  1. Choose dark drapes or blinds for the bedroom windows. You can also apply black film over glass windows to block out light completely.
  2. Turn the alarm clock away and keep the brightness to a minimum. My personal preference is not to keep the clock in the bedroom at all.
  3. Completely turn off all the electronic devices including stereo, satellite boxes, TV, laptop, iPad, and others. Again my preference is not to have these devices in the bedroom at all. If you use them in the evening, please use them outside the bedroom and with lowest possible brightness to minimize melatonin suppression.
  4. If your spouse needs nightlight please use one with the lowest brightness. I also suggest you try dark and comfortable eyeshades. These eyeshades come in handy when trying to sleep in those not-so-dark hotel rooms.
  5. Sport those cool looking designer sunglasses while driving home in the evening or during outdoor activities in the backyard. Your Pineal gland would love you for that.

Remember that melatonin is an ally, while light is an enemy of deep sleep.

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