As our economy tumbles more and more each day, it has become very apparent that many people will be taking a new job working an overnight shift. This shift is usually not anyone’s first choice for workers. Very few actually volunteer to work this very awkward shift. As a veteran overnight worker, a shift I have chosen to work for over a decade, it’s time for me to offer you newcomers to our world a little advice. I’m not a Doctor, or Psychologist, I’m just an seasoned overnight shift worker. I’ve worked a 6 P.M. to 6 A.M. shift for most of these years, but I’m currently working a 10 P.M. to 6:30 A.M. shift. For the average person, these shifts are not easy to get used to. Here a few of my tips, from experience. I hope they help you with the transition.
My first tip is forget about energy drinks or pills to keep you awake. They are artificial, and will not help you adjust in any way. I’ve seen a lot of people get all pepped up using different things, but remember, what goes up, must come down. I’ve seen a lot of co-workers actually make themselves sick using these things. Don’t get me wrong. A cup of coffee or tea isn’t a bad idea, but all things in moderation. The first week or two of transition for your body is difficult, but your body will let you know what works, and what doesn’t.
Many people have a hard time adjusting their sleep patterns. Let’s look at the hard facts. While most people are sleeping, you are hard at work. And while most people are working, it’s OK for you to sleep. Most of my acquaintances think I’m always sleeping, because they are up and about. But they lose sight of the fact that they got a good night’s sleep while I was working. Room darkening curtains and shades help a lot, although your significant other may not like the decor. And don’t get mad at the neighbor for mowing his lawn during the day, that’s what “normal” people do.
How much sleep should you get during the day? That answer is simple. As much as your body needs. Don’t try to go to sleep if you aren’t tired, and don’t try to be a hero by staying up all hours. Go to sleep when you are tired, and get up when you’re not. That sounds simple, but I’ve seen a lot of people fight going to sleep during the day. By the way, the napping thing usually doesn’t work out well. People that you know will have to accept the fact that we overnight workers need to sleep too. If you can get 6 hours of quality sleep, you’ll be just fine.
Eating habits for overnight workers are an adjustment also. Do you eat supper before work, at work, or for breakfast? Do you eat breakfast in the morning, or at night? What do you eat when? Again, this is also a very simple answer. Eat what you want, when you are hungry. Everyone is different, and I’ve seen this issue approached from several angles. It’s very similar to the sleep advice, your body will let you know. By the way, I eat supper before going to work, and breakfast in the morning before going to sleep. Watch what you eat before going to bed though, just like a ‘normal” person would.
On your days off, are you supposed to stay up all night, or go to sleep like everyone else? My body tells me how to handle that one. I’ll tell you this, on a vacation, I sleep like a normal person.
Here is my biggest key to being a successful overnight worker. Enjoy the extra pay that you get from it. Most places pay employees 10-20% more than day workers. It’s a lot harder to do, and it’s not for everyone. But if you realize that you are making more money than day workers, and try to enjoy it, you’ll feel just fine about that overnight shift. Sure, you basically become a vampire, up all night, and sleep all day, but it can be well worth the adjustment. If you listen to your body, and don’t try to be a hero by never sleeping, you will survive just fine. Good luck. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to ask me anything else. Sweet daytime dreams!!