How Long Should You Sleep Before a Night Shift?

Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2021
how long should you sleep before a night shift
Working the night shift can be tough on your sleep schedule. Learn how to optimize your sleep before, during, and after a night shift

Working the night shift can be tough on your sleep schedule. Most of us need 7-9 hours of undisturbed sleep a day for overall physical and mental health. But how much sleep you get before a night shift depends on your situation and how much you have already slept during the day.

For example, rather than immediately going to bed, you may prefer to stay up for a few hours after getting home as you normally would on a traditional shift. The idea is to wake up closer to the time you start your next night shift. Others may prefer napping for a few hours after coming home and then sleeping for longer until they have to wake up for the next night shift.

It may take a few days to figure out which sleep schedule works for you. Either way, the key is to make sure to get enough quality sleep every 24 hours.

How to get a good sleep before or after a night shift

  • Try to maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule.
  • While on your way home from work, wear dark sunglasses and hats to shield your eyes from the sunlight.
  • Ask your family to maintain a noise-free atmosphere at home when you are asleep.
  • Use noise-eliminating ear plugs or a white noise machine to prevent unwanted sounds from disturbing your sleep.
  • Use blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block the sunlight during your daytime sleep.
  • Before going to bed, relax yourself with a warm bath or meditation.
  • Do not drink caffeinated drinks or foods closer to your bedtime (3-4 hours before your sleep time).
  • Avoid having alcohol before going to bed, as it can be disruptive to your sleep cycle.
  • If you are planning to take sleeping aids, such as melatonin supplements, consult your doctor first.

What can you do to stay alert during a night shift?

If you find it difficult to stay alert during a night shift, these tips may help:

  • Moderate caffeine: Caffeine in the form of coffee and tea can be helpful to keep you stimulated at the beginning of your shift. Try to drink a little every 1-2 hours instead of downing several cups at a time.
  • Short exercises: During your breaks, try to reserve some time for a brisk walk or jog. Exercise can get your blood moving and give you a boost of energy.
  • Consider a post-work nap: If you drive to work after your night shift, consider taking a short nap in your car to avoid accidents due to drowsiness.
  • Bright light: Keep your workplace brightly lit using lamps or other lights, which promote alertness.


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Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2021
Pacheco D. Tips for Shift Workers. Sleep Foundation.