Sleeping well is crucial to feeling good, thinking clearly and making sure your body’s in its best shape. Getting a good night’s sleep after a hard day’s work is difficult for everyone – but it can be even more difficult for a hospitality worker.
You’re on your feet for long hours, at all times of the day and night. You can’t control your environment – brightly lit kitchens, extremely noisy bars – but there are a few simple things you can do to ensure a better night’s rest.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night
This is the hardest to do, and the hardest to control. Maybe your roster rolls between night work and dawn shifts. Or maybe you’re in the habit of going out to bars after you’ve finished tending one.
If your hours are mostly regular, and you can resist the temptation to party on, it’s important to try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Keep it up for a month and you’ll find bedtime much easier to stick to.
2. Try to sleep for around eight hours
Some people can operate well on six hours’ sleep, while others would love to spend all night and half the day snuggled up in bed. Over time, you’ll learn exactly how much sleep your body and your brain need.
If you’re not sure, or if you’ve had an irregular sleep schedule for a number of months or years, aim for eight hours every night. Pick your bedtime by working backwards from when you need to get up. After you’ve tried this for a few weeks, you’ll be able to gauge whether you need more or less shut-eye every night.
3. Don’t exercise right before bed
It’s counter-intuitive, right? You’d think that exercise would tire you out, that you’d crash after a long run or exhausting gym session.
However, vigorous activity spikes adrenaline, keeps your heart-rate running above its usual pace and raises your body temperature – and these things can keep you awake. Try to finish your daily exercise around three hours before bed.
If your schedule means that right before bed is the only time to exercise, then have a quick, cool shower after your workout and try meditation or deep breathing exercises to bring your body back to its resting state.
4. But exercise at some point during the day
While working out just before bedtime can be a bad idea, people who are physically active during the day sleep better than those who aren’t. As a hospitality worker, you’re on your feet constantly – if your uniform policy allows, try wearing a pedometer or FitBit for a week, and see how many steps you rack up on shift! – which may be enough to keep your body happy and healthy.
Simple yoga or a short walk in the morning will kick-start your day and prepare you for a good night’s sleep later on.
5. Don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime
This is particularly difficult for hospitality workers. You finish your shift after last service, and you finally get to eat – maybe something delicious from the restaurant kitchen, or a cheeky drink to celebrate knock-off.
However, having any sort of caffeine (even tea!) within six hours of your bedtime can stop your brain from switching to sleep mode. Alcohol, too, might make you sleepy to start with, but the chemicals eventually become stimulants, and after a few hours you might find yourself more alert than ever – right in time for bed. Equally, food can spark insomnia, as your body will be working on digesting and converting that fuel into energy.
Water and light snacks (with little or no sugar) are your best bedtime bets. If you can hold the treats over as leftovers for the next day, your body will thank you for it.
6. Meditate in bed
Restaurants and hotels can be noisy, hectic places. Maybe you had a customer that just about made your head explode. Maybe your service dockets were mixed up, and the night didn’t go as well as it could have. Maybe you were given a huge tip!
Your brain will be buzzing with all the little triumphs and annoyances of your day, but to get a good night’s sleep, you need to switch them off.
Turn off your bedroom lights, get under your covers and do your best to relax. Try deep breathing exercises, or listen to meditation recordings. There are many sleep apps available, and if you find ones that work for you (Glen Harrold’s are my favorite!), get into the habit of listening to them every night until you know them off by heart.