CDC Issues Advice for Improving Sleep and Managing Fatigue at Work During Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all aspects of society, including how we work.

Essential workers, health care professionals, and emergency responders are working especially hard, with many clocking long hours, more shifts, and often overnight.

Working long hours, particularly in stressful or physically demanding work, can lead to fatigue, which in turn can cause an increased risk of injury or poor health.

Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released advice on how to improve sleep and reduce workplace fatigue for those who are struggling.

While there is no one solution that will fit everyone's needs, the CDC says that, generally, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep under regular circumstances.

The first piece of advice it shared is: "Recognize these are stressful and unusual circumstances and you may need more sleep or time to recover."

CDC Advice on Improving Sleep

  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Before working a long stretch of shifts, the CDC recommends "banking your sleep," which means sleeping several extra hours longer than you would normally.
  • After working a long stretch of shifts, give yourself time to recover. It may take several days of extended sleep before you begin to feel recovered.
  • After working a night shift, when driving home in the daylight try wearing sunglasses to reduce your exposure to sunlight.
  • Take naps when you can.
  • A 90-minute nap before working a night shift can prevent you from feeling tired at work. Consider using blackout shades at home when sleeping during the day
  • Eat healthy foods and stay physically active to improve your sleep.

How to Fall Asleep Quickly

  • If it takes more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, set aside time before bed to help you relax, like meditating, relaxation breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Avoid sunlight or bright lights 90 minutes before you go to sleep, as exposure to light before bed can make you feel more awake.
  • Avoid alcohol, heavy meals, and nicotine for at least two to three hours before going to bed, and don't drink caffeine within five hours of going to bed.

CDC Advice on Managing Fatigue at Work

  • Use a buddy system at work to check in with each other.
  • Pay attention to signs of fatigue like yawning, difficulty keeping your eyes open, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Find out if your employer has a program to help employees manage fatigue on the job.
  • Report any fatigue-related events to a manager to prevent injuries and errors.
  • Do not work if your fatigue threatens the safety of yourself or others. Report to a manager when you feel too tired to work safely.
CDC Advice Improve Sleep Manage Fatigue
Japanese businessmen take naps on benches in Hibiya park, central Tokyo, August 4, 1994. The CDC has issued advice for improving sleep and managing fatigue during the coronavirus pandemic. Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty