How to survive a night shift

After a glorious, year long reprieve, I’m back to shift work.

I hate, HATE having my sleep messed around with, but I’m getting better at dealing with it these days. A good thing, because night shifts will be a part of my life for a couple of years yet.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to make my night shifts a little easier.

Silence the outside, as best you can
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Our blinds don’t do a great job of keeping the light out so I sleep with a merino wool buff over my eyes. I discovered these whilst travelling as they were fantastic for shutting out the rest of the world when I was trying to get some shut eye in a hostel. They’re breathable and stay on your face unlike eye masks, because they fit a little tighter.

Sometimes I wear earplugs – especially if it’s the weekend or school holidays, because quite hideously, the rest of the world does not stop just because I am on nights. Rude.

Watch your caffeine intake
I have had nights where I’ve downed cup of tea, after cup of tea in the hope it would pep me up a bit. Instead, I’ve found that the caffeine makes me feel jittery and nauseous. Sadly, being up at 4 am just isn’t natural so you’re going to feel tired. Keeping hydrated does help – but I find it’s better to stick to water.

Time your break
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I try and take my break a little after halfway through my shift. Purely because psychologically I find it a boost to have less than half of my shift left to go when I get back to work.

Combat nights nausea with mint
Working nights sometimes makes me feel nauseous and I find that having something minty helps with that.

Eat well
7CE93377-01AE-4B36-A64E-8B8D62B35B62Every night shift I crave stodge, but after making the mistake of eating chips and lasagne one too many times on shift and trying to fuel myself on coco pops, I’ve  learnt that having all those carbs in your belly does not make for a happy worker. The post-prandial slump is made worse by fatigue.

I find eating small snacks throughout the night the most helpful, but everybody is different. Find your own rhythm and consider sticking to fresh, wholesome foods. Having said that, sometimes all you want is a bar of chocolate. Eat it. You deserve it.

Have nap before your first shift
I try to wake up at my usual time the morning of my first night, but then have a nap later on. If you can’t sleep during the day at least try and have a time of rest before your shift. Stay off your phone and let your mind relax.

Plan a treat for the end
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I try and grab breakfast with my colleagues after I’ve finished my last night. It’s something to look forward to whilst you’re working and it’s nice to be able to commiserate with friends who understand how damn tired you are.