Confessions of a Night Shift Grunt

I am so privileged to be in a job, working several days per week, and collecting paychecks that float my boat from day to day. Many people in this country can’t find work, are unable to work, or simply won’t. Being in an occupation is a blessing that forces me to be responsible and economical. But there are downsides to the job that I’m in, as there are in many fields of work.

I work the graveyard shift. 11-7 to be exact. And I feel that not many people know the real side effects of working such a shift. I’ve heard of many folks adjusting to this shift with ease, but this post comes to you from one whose body refuses to adjust. So, if anyone wants to jump into a night shift world, please consider what it’s like before you commit. Like I said, it may not apply to everyone, but definitely to some.

1) Daily schedules are inside-out. Stores don’t operate in your waking hours (usually between 5pm & 7am), and you’ll probably have to sacrifice sleep in order to organize your daily business around town.

2) Get used to darkness. You go to sleep in darkness (7-8am), you wake up in darkness (4-5pm), and you work in darkness (11pm-7am). This should get better in the summer, since daylight starts early and lasts until late in the evening. But if you’re doing this kind of work the rest of the year, expect an eternal blackout. As a result, you may suffer from a chronic lack of the many vitamins and hormones your body produces from the intake of light, which you will not have much of anymore.

3) Never awake. Your body’s circadian rhythms are programmed to keep you awake in light and sleepy in darkness. When you switch your entire schedule to run at night you will be in a mostly constant state of jet lag. Some people recover from this once they adjust to the shift, but there are others who just can’t.

4) For the ladies. As mentioned before, switching up your sleep-wake hours results in a lack of vitamins and hormones that your body produces to be healthy. This can negatively impact your regular menstrual cycle. I’m not in a place where I can or should get pregnant, but I have read articles relating to the impact on your overall fertility, meaning you may not be able to get pregnant as easily as those whose bodies are experiencing normal hormone levels.

5) Mind over matter. You don’t sleep as well during daylight hours as you would at night, so you might not wake up feeling rested. Ever. After long periods of this routine this can ultimately lead to depression or anxiety, so please try to keep an upbeat mind about yourself in order to feel and appear positive.

6) Days off. Unless you plan to keep your waking hours at night like your job requires, sleeping on your days off will finally allow you to get shut-eye at night. However, this may pose a challenge. It can be a mixed result of feeling better but worse. Your body will sleep correctly while snoozing in darkness, but will probably still feel groggy when you wake up. You’ll sleep better, but function the same simply because you’re used to the night shift routine.

7) Your social life. Let me take a moment to profusely thank my friends and family for putting up with me. They know my job kills my ability to be very social or even remotely pleasant to be around, and yet somehow they stick around to love me through it. I’ll be honest, you probably won’t see much of your friends or family, and you might be too tired to do much with them even when they’re around. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you can begin working on your attitude and learn to be kinder, happier, more patient, and more loving — even when you have to push yourself through the jet lag to do it. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding.

8) Eating. It’s not always easy to eat right, but you must while on this night schedule. You must do it often. Every day should include a vegetable and/or fruit, and lots of water. Junk food will add to your trudge and make you feel worse. Eating right will make your body feel better while pulling weird hours. It’s hard, and I fail at this over and over and over again. Just try your best to keep this in your mind and budget.

9) Avoiding illness. You’re not always going to get sick, probably no more than normal. However, it’s easier to get sick while being on such an opposite schedule, and therefore you must take special care of your health. Don’t be afraid to invest in some vitamins and take them regularly.

10) The good side. Many of these points are negative. The night shift isn’t easy. But one of the best parts about working the night shift is it puts you in another world that lets you get to know yourself better than ever. You have lots of alone time to think, meditate, pray, and whatever else it is you do. You can use this time to hone your hobbies, learn how to control your attitudes and actions, or draw yourself closer to God. It’s a quiet time that can help you relax, if you let it.

 

While I don’t believe that the night shift is a healthy or easy position to hold, I think those who work it will come out a better person. You’ll learn how to be strong and responsible in every area of your life, even those you never knew you had because you usually just slept through them.

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