Saturday, 19 May 2018

How to survive a night shift

Not so long ago, I took a demotion at work to give myself a little more flexibility with my hours. What I didn’t know when I agreed to the job change was that I would start my new role with 6 consecutive night shifts. Now, I have been pretty lucky up to now and only ever worked sociable hours (there was one 5am cleaning job, but that doesn’t count), so doing a night shift was something totally new to me - and not at all what I had expected! I struggled so much with the change that it prompted me to write this post, and hopefully give some of you some tips on how to survive the dreaded night shifts (or even just an all night study session).

Try to get 8 hours sleep
This can be easier said than done when it is sunny outside during the day, but is important to keeping yourself healthy and productive during the night. I downloaded the app second time zone, and figured out what time zone I would be living in during my shifts. This helped me ensure that I was not only going to bed at the right time, but was also getting up at the right time. (Turns out my night shifts make me on Australian time)

Remember to eat 
The hardest thing I found was trying to remember to eat between my shifts. Due to the shifts I would wake up too late to eat dinner, not pack anything for the night, then be too tired once I got home to cook anything. It eventually took an impact on my health and I made an effort to make the time to eat regular meals again. I’m still not used to having breakfast at 8pm, and am still upset that takeaways aren’t open at 9am, but I’m getting better at this. 

Don’t overstretch yourself 
Your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping, your days are for sleeping. I won’t repeat it again, I think you’ve got the point. Just be mindful of how much rest you need between shifts, and don’t try to cram your days with meetings and appointments (if you absolutely have to, then make them fit around your sleep routine). Part of the reason I went on to the shifts was to allow myself availability during the day for interviews, only I soon learned that if I wasn’t asleep by midday then I wouldn’t be waking up fresh for work. Get the rest you need, trust me. 

Take entertainment
Depending on the job you are in, the night shift may be a quiet period. In my current role it involves a lot of lone working, and essentially resetting everything ready for morning. The problem is, I can complete the jobs within my shift in far less time than I’m in work for so I end up with hours spare with nothing to do, but where I legally can’t just have a cat nap. As I have no team around me to keep me motivated during these times I make sure to pack my phone/tablet/book so that I have something to keep my mind active. 

Stay hydrated
This is the same as forgetting to eat, but way easier to fall into. There can be an urge with working nights to live off caffeine and energy drinks to see you through to morning. The problem with this is that they are neither hydrating or in any way good for your body, so you quickly start to feel sick or queasy from them. They also may keep you awake during the day when you mean to sleep. I personally try to use fizz sticks rather than coffee, as they mean I’m getting my caffeine in but also getting enough water. 

Drive home safely
This may be the most important one. If you do not feel safe to drive after your shift, don’t. Simple as. Find somewhere to have a quick nap before you travel, drink coffee, find an alternative way of getting to work, blast loud tunes, drive with the windows down and the air in your face. Use any techniques you wish, but make sure you are driving safely! I usually blast out music and badly sing along all the way home, and if it’s light I try to make sure I wear sunglasses so that I’m not too awake when I get home.

Night shifts don’t have to be dull or lonely, they can be a time of productivity if you allow them to be, and by making small changes that becomes easier. Heck, most of my recent blog posts have been ideas formed in the dead of the night. 

Ps. It’s worth noting I still detest night shifts but have just learned to make the most of a bad situation. I’m not sure advice exists on how to enjoy them rather than simply survive them. 

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