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Plan for Anchor Sleep

Napping as a Sleep Strategy (1:03)

Daniel Cohen, MD, MMSc, formerly of Harvard, tells how to make naps part of your sleep plans.

Create an anchor sleep period, if possible. Railroaders’ work schedules often keep them from sleeping seven to nine hours at night, the habit specialists recommend for optimal alertness. They may have to split their sleep into two or more chunks.

If that’s true for you, sleep as much as you can at the same time every dayfive hours or more, if ablepreferably at night, when humans sleep best.

Scientists call this regular sleep period anchor sleep, because it helps hold other daily rhythms in line. Anchor sleep helps stabilize ups and downs in your alertness, energy, appetite, blood pressure, hormone secretion, and other bodily functions that govern how well you perform and feel, on the job and off.

Try to sleep as many hours as possible at the same time on both work days and days off. You sometimes may opt to stay awake in the daytime, and sleep at night, to enjoy activities with family and friends. When you plan your schedule, keep your immediate past work days and likely next work period in mind. 

After your tour, sleep first, do chores later. If you put off sleep too long, you may be called back sooner than you expect. 

Explore Further 

Complete the sleep-wake diary