MEDICINE / PERSONAL / Uncategorized

How to Survive the Night Shift

Tips, tricks and products to help adjust to working overnight!

I’ve been working the night shift for several months now. At first, it was easy. I have always been a night person. It is infinitely easier for me to stay up an extra couple of hours than it is for me to wake up even a few minutes early. I’ve come to the conclusion that my biological clock just runs a little extra long. After a couple weeks though, I got used to the shift change and as the evening is now my “morning”, I have just as much difficulty waking up at 5 PM now as I used to at 5 AM. Although my physical work load is slightly less demanding now, I do still find myself tired a lot of the time. Like, struggling to wake up at 8:30 PM even though I went to bed at 10:00 AM tired. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve always been a sleepy person. According to my Fitbit, I’m an extremely restless sleeper, but that’s beside the point. Working the night shift and completely flipping your sleep schedule can be discombobulating at best, and can lead to serious health issues. Getting the best quality sleep possible (and enough of it) is vital to surviving the late nights.

Try to wake up when it’s still light out. The sunlight serves as a natural energy boost, and waking up at the same time each day can help reset your biological clock.

Use caffeine, sparingly. I am mainly a tea drinker, and try to drink my last caffeinated cup no later than 3 AM, about 6 hours before I aim to go to bed. My body is particularly susceptible to staying awake too long after my shift if I don’t cut back early enough, so I always try to switch to water or herbal tea around halfway through my shift.

Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks/meals. Night shift workers tend to snack on sugary treats to stay awake, which ultimately leads to crashing, and weight gain in the long run. Many of my coworkers just bring a small snack like yogurt or don’t eat on their breaks. I personally bring a meal I try to eat between 1-3 AM. I usually bring some leftovers from dinner (traditional dinnertime meal, but my first meal upon waking up), and some fruit and salad to snack on. Find what works for you, but I don’t recommend eating nothing the whole shift, I personally eat something every 4-6 hours otherwise I feel faint.

When you leave work, pop your shades on, wear a hood or a hat, and use your car’s sun visors to block out excess sunlight on your commute. Once again, sunlight is naturally energizing, and it’s way too easy to accidentally stay up 6 hours after your shift ends.

Create a pre-bedtime routine. When I get home, I walk my dog, shower, and eat a small meal. If I had a long shift, or I’m feeling super exhausted, I can fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. When I’m struggling, I pull out a book, drink a cup of Sleepytime tea, and dab some lavender oil on my wrists. Cuddling with my dog is also a great way to de-stress after a hectic shift! On really difficult days, when I’ve messed up my sleep schedule completely, I’ll take a melatonin supplement, which works, but tends to make me sleepy into the beginning of my shift.

Keep your room dark! I use an eye shade, and I’m currently hunting for a set of good blackout curtains for optimal darkness. Apparently most of the options out there are either not actually blackout at all, or they come in weird sizes that aren’t wide enough to cover my windows.

Make sure to stay active. Working out when your body is exhausted is hard, but when I’m able to get to the gym, it’s much easier for me to maintain a sleep schedule. I prefer working out before work. It’s better for my dog walking schedule, plus I get too energized working out after my shift.

For days off, I try to maintain my regular schedule as much as possible. If I only have one day off, I try to wake up a bit earlier than usual and stay awake at night. I usually fill my time cuddling with my dog, catching up on Netflix, drawing, or working on this blog! If I’m going to have 2+ days off in a row, sometimes I may try to adjust back to daytime life. I’ll come home from work, eat and shower as normal, take a quick nap, then caffeinate and try to stay awake until night when I’ll sleep like normal people. Then my last night off before returning to work, I try to stay up most of the night, then just get extra sleep to help adjust. I’m always a bit tired after these days off, but I get to participate in the world once in a while which is really refreshing.

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2 thoughts on “How to Survive the Night Shift

  1. I agree with all of this. I’ve been on nights since February and it can be tough. I have a large window I can’t reach and a sunlight so lighting is the worst. I tried the eye covers but they don’t work well. I sometimes make a blanket fort dab on some lavender and cuddle with the kitties.

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    • Sorry I only just saw this, been neglecting the blog a bit! But yes, I found some dark curtains which helped, but before that I was trying to figure out how to create a canopy over my bed to block out the light. I hope you’ve figured out something that works!

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