LifestyleWork-Life Balance

Survival Tips for Working the Night Shift

Working the night shift can be incredibly tough for some people while others don’t see it as too much trouble. The majority of people has to work out how to make it through a night shift focused. The following tips will definitely help you do exactly that.


General tips for people working night shifts

If it’s your first time you will work night shifts, it’s important to know that you will need some time to adjust to it. It will take at least a month before your body adapts to a new, unusual routine. Be patient with your body and reduce your commitments a month before you start with night shifts to a minimum. 

Even when you’re not preparing for the night shift, you still have to make a certain routine so that you are ready when the night shift approaches.

It’s important that you don’t allow other people to mess up your daily routine. You are living a life that’s completely opposite to theirs, so you shouldn’t make any arrangements with them that would break your routine. For example, don’t agree on having late-afternoon lunches, shopping or meeting with friends if that’s the time of the day you’re usually sleeping. 

Preparing for the night shift

mom working night shifts

Two days before you do your night shift, do some physical activity. Whether it’s running, swimming, aerobics or cycling, it will allow you to have some good night sleep before you spend the night awake. The day before the night shift, you can choose one of the two methods:

The first method – stay up really late the night before the shift, at least till 3 am but it’s best if you make it till 6 in the morning.  You will then spend most of the day sleeping, which will make you more focused and ready for the working night.

The second method – you can go to sleep the day before at your usual time. However, sleep until late morning, get up, have a really big lunch then go back to sleep for as long as you can. 


During the night shift

Keep yourself busy – depending on your profession, your night shift will be more or less active. If you are, for example, a nurse, you will probably have a lot of work to do, so no need to be inventive. However, if your night shift is usually slow and pretty boring, then you’ll have to get more creative. Watching a film or playing a video game are good ways to keep yourself alert. You can even use that time more wisely – a quiet night is ahead of you, so maybe you could improve yourself in some aspect (learn a new language, improve your skills…). Keeping your mind busy is what will help the night pass more quickly.


Sharpen your mind with coffee

drink coffee when working night shift

There aren’t many effective stimulants for our brains like coffee at work.  Not only will it wake you up but it will also make you more productive, so have it also when you feel you need to speed up a bit.  Just make sure you know how much coffee your stomach can handle during one night. Small regular doses of coffee are just what you need to improve your performance. Some people think that it will be more effective if they take a large amount of coffee at the start of the shift. However, night shift workers should try out a different alternative. If you take smaller amounts of coffee but more frequently throughout the night, there will be less chance of you taking an accidental nap or feel a drop of energy. Just make sure you stop drinking coffee some 5 hours before you plan to go to sleep; otherwise, it may keep you awake when you really need your sleep.

Nutritious meals

A healthy meal is important no matter when you work. It will activate your brain before you start your shift. Of course, you will have to have a snack during the shift, too. Make it something with fiber, minerals and vitamins. Carbohydrates or proteins are good if you feel you need something stronger to make it through an active night shift. It’s also important to keep yourself hydrated.

Heavy meals are not recommended because they will slow you down and make you sleep. It’s better to have a few light snacks. Food that’s easy to digest is the best choice. Processed, fried or spicy food could cause indigestion, while sugary foods can cause a short energy boost but they are followed by a big energy dip, which will be hard on you. On the other hand, sugars from fruits are a great source of vitamins, fiber and minerals.

After the night shift

The routine after the night shift is also important for the overall dynamics of your lifestyle. Although it’s quite uncommon to sleep some days during the day, and then coming back to being awake by day like other people, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some form of routine. Decide what you want to do when you come home from a night shift; some people find it easier to momentarily crawl into their beds and fall asleep; others prefer having breakfast at home and spend a few hours with their families before they turn in. Identify what suits you more and stick to that routine no matter what.

How to get quality sleep

It may sound weird why you should read about sleeping when your primary concern is staying awake during a night shift. Well, the better the quality of your sleep is, the easier it will be for you to stay awake and be productive at night.

The trouble is you’ll have to adapt to sleeping when it’s daytime – something our bodies are not used to because of our body clock. So, the trick is to replicate night conditions to “cheat” your body into sleeping.

Sufficient hours of sleep are a precondition of any healthy person. You need to have your 7-8 hours of sleep even if it’s during the day. Many night shift workers sleep less during the day so that they could make it up to their families. However, a lack of sleep takes its toll after some time and those workers experience burnout after a while.

Turn to a professional if you need help

There are many reasons you could start feeling bad after some time of working the night shifts. First of all, it is unnatural to your body to stay awake during the night on so many occasions. The other problem is the antisocial hours, which are preventing you from seeing people you love and spending quality time with them. It would be no surprise if you start feeling some signs of exhaustion, anxiety or any other symptom of some health problem. It’s necessary to be in touch with your body and to listen to what it’s saying to you. It has its limitations and it’s important for you not to push it. Of course, some issues are not very physical and they are harder to detect. For example, the lack of interaction with other people or not being exposed to the sunlight enough can lead to depression. 


Final comment

Working night shifts is a unique experience that no one can understand except those who have tried it. It requires discipline and a stable routine. It is possible to have more or less normal life if you follow these tips. They will make your life much easier and help you use every awakening hour more effectively.


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Stella Ryne

Stella Ryne is an art historian, traveller, conscious consumer and a proud mother. When she is not trying to improve the things around her (and herself, for that matter), she likes to lose herself in a good book. She’s deeply into green practices, cherishing the notion that sustainable living and sustainable travel will not only make us far less dependent on others regarding the dwellings we inhabit and what we eat, but also contribute to our planet being a better place to live on. Stay in touch with Stella via Twitter and Facebook.

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