Surviving the Night Shift
The buzz on your alarm clock jolts you from sleep. You grudgingly reach for it and look at the time: 8 p.m. The sun is setting outside your window and you think to yourself, what in the world is going on? But it only takes your mind a split second to remember, oh yeah, I have a night shift.
Irrespective of your night shifts being a vocational requirement, or a personal preference, they can prevent you from getting that crucial snooze time that’s essential for healthy mind and body functioning. After all, you are doing the opposite of what your body is naturally inclined to do. Whether you are a night shift veteran or a nervous newbie, here are a few facts and tips about night shifts that might help you avoid hitting that wall during the graveyard shift.
• Ease into it. If you are new, shift slowly. Do not try and turn your life around 180 degrees in one day.
• Socialize. Do not let night shifts reduce you to hermit status. Whether it is on the weekend or in a small part of your weekday, spend time with friends and family. Relationships are essential to mental health.
• Discipline yourself. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. You must get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day, so find a block of time to run errands and work out after you get those essential hours in.
• Follow through. Try not to go back and forth between being a nighttime worker during the week and a nighttime sleeper on the weekends. Your mind and body will be constantly thrown off when you try to stay awake during the day on the weekends and during the nights on week nights. In the long run, it is better for your health and your social life if you stick to one schedule.
• Cheat a little. Fool your body as best you can into thinking it is nighttime. Night shift workers are most often interrupted by noise in the house, such as other people, children, and phone calls. Wear ear plugs, make sure others are aware of your situation, turn off the phone, and make the room as dark as possible. As an alternative to earplugs, keep a fan running. Fans drown out 90% of the noise that normally wakes you up.
• Snack healthy and hydrate. Do not forget to take care of yourself. In other words, keep eating healthy, home cooked meals on a regular schedule. Eat healthy snacks and drink plenty of fluids during your shift. It is a good idea to pack a brown bag with healthy foods to avoid the vending machines and 24-hour fast food joints. Sugary and fatty foods can make you feel more tired.
• Exercise. Find a time to work out and stick to that schedule. There are plenty of 24-hour gyms that are begging for you to stay in shape.
• Listen to your body. Finally, if the night shift is not for you or is becoming detrimental to your health, ask for a new shift, get a doctor's signature, or get a new job.
We hope this helps add a little sunshine to your night shift. If you are an experienced night owl and have the night shifts down to a tee, chime in with your pointers on how to have a successful night shift on our Facebook Page.