13 Tips on How to Prepare for and Survive Your Night Shifts
With the variety of jobs that are now available, it is no surprise that the work hours come in all shapes and forms. Some people have the ability to create their own timetable and work when they want, others keep the typical nine-to-five work schedule while there are also those who work in shifts. Feelings toward working in shifts are very mixed seeing as how some people prefer working at night while others dread the so-called graveyard shift.
There are many professions and reasons why one might have to work the night shift. In addition to the usual suspects like police officers, healthcare workers, and firefighters, there are also flight attendants, people in shops that are open 24/7, those that work in transportation, IT and customer services, and so many more. Furthermore, when we take into consideration the fact that business is now more globalized than ever, we have companies and individuals that have to work the night shift in order to be able to communicate with their employees and clients from different time zones.
Now, regardless of why you are in the night shift, you might be looking for ways to properly prepare and survive it with ease. While these methods might depend on the type of work you do, there are some universal tips you can rely on to not only get you through your shift but help you thrive at work as well. Take a look below to see what you can do before, during and after your shift.
Avoid partying before your shift
Preparation is key when going into the night shift. This is why you have to be careful about how you spend your time before work. Perhaps you think that one night out won’t be too bad and you’ll get to recover in time for your next night shift. Maybe it’s your best friend’s birthday or a school reunion. However, a long night of partying and drinking is not the best of ideas. Explain your situation to your friends as they will surely understand your circumstances or show up for an hour or two and stick to non-alcoholic drinks. Instead of a party, opt for a relaxing night in with friends and family. Spend some time together, either catching up if you haven’t seen each other in a while or watching a fun movie. You certainly do not want to show up to work with a hangover and this approach will not tire you out and you will be better prepared for your shift.
Get plenty of sleep before work
In addition to avoiding a hangover, you need to ensure you get plenty of sleep before you leave for your shift. If you are used to sleeping during the night and being active during the day, changing this habit might be a bit difficult but luckily there are ways to help you do it. A few days before you have to start your night shift, start doing a bit more physical activity than usual – to tire yourself out a little more. From swimming and cycling to boxing or doing a team sport, your options are numerous. Now, you have two approaches here. One, you can decide to stay up really late and change your circadian rhythm to an extent. For instance, if you can stay awake until 3 am or even 6 am, you should be able to sleep through the majority of the day before you have to get to work. Binging a show or calling friends from different time zones can help keep you awake. On the other hand, the second approach includes you going to bed, as usual, sleeping in a bit, having a big lunch and going back for an afternoon/early evening nap until you have to go. Sleeping during the day can be difficult for some people but there are some useful tools you can rely on, such as eye masks, earplugs and blackout curtains. If you’re just starting to work night shifts, it will probably take you a few tries to see which method works best for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll come up with a combination that is unique and customized especially for you.
Pay attention to what you eat
Seeing as how you are probably not used to being awake during the entire night, you will need to work out a new eating schedule. You will have to get used to having lunch in the middle of the night and needing snacks every so often. Some people experience nausea in the beginning as their body is not accustomed to this change in routine. While this makes it harder to eat, you cannot skip meals as then you will start feeling even more nauseous and drained and we all know that that won’t lead to good results. Depending on where you work and whether you have a cafeteria you can turn to, you might need to bring your own lunches and snacks. What is important here is to stick to healthy and balanced meals. You can treat yourself every once in a while but you should do your best to avoid heavy and spicy foods because they might result in fatigue. Furthermore, sugar is okay to a certain point but don’t go overboard. Opt for light snacks like fruits and veggies instead of junk food. Lastly, maybe there is a delivery company that is open 24/7 and you think it’s easier to simply order in some dish. However, make sure these foods are not as unhealthy as they might not sit well with you. Look for a service with healthy options or start doing meal prep in order to have healthy meals while in the night shift.
Of course, apart from eating healthily, you also need to stay hydrated. When we are not hydrated, we tend to feel dizzy or have headaches, which means that we cannot do our work properly. Get yourself a reusable water bottle that will be within reach at all times. If you love and need coffee to function, it’s very easy to get a few quality office coffee machines that will keep you going when you most need it. However, while coffee does have plenty of health benefits, make sure not to drink too much as it can have the opposite effect; plus, you might not be able to sleep when you get home. What is more, you should also avoid energy drinks which can make you even more dehydrated.
Make yourself comfy
While certain professions expect you to wear a uniform that might not be the comfiest, other ones allow you to make yourself a bit more comfortable. For example, if you work from home, you can have the softest sweatpants and wrap yourself in blankets. If you work in an office that has a casual approach to the dress code, get comfy shoes that you can stand in for hours on end and dress in layers so that you are not too warm or cold. On the other hand, when not in uniform, stay in your softest, comfiest clothes so that you are feeling good for at least a portion of your day.
Be wary of downtime
You need to be aware of the fact that there might be a lull in your work depending on what you do. If you’re a first responder, you might get a few hours without an emergency. This can make it easy to get sleepy but you should always stay on alert as you never know when you might need to react. Some other industries are similar when it comes to this lack of customers even though they work all night, such as taxi drivers or IT support experts. During this time, it is vital not to get distracted and keep your focus.
Get to know your coworkers better
If you do experience some downtime, you need to look for ways how to pass the time. For example, if you have coworkers, you could spend more time with them. Engaging with other people will make the time go by faster and you might make a good new friend. Moreover, having someone you can rely on close by means that you can deal with certain issues, glitches and obstacles quickly.
Look for interesting distractions
On slow days, you need to come up with some interesting things to do in order to stay awake. Other than chatting with friends and coworkers, you can do some solo activities as well. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to do crossword puzzles, read books, watch TV shows or even take up a hobby like knitting. Depending on your job and what kind of work you do, you might have a lot of time on your hands but you might not even have time to go to the toilet.
Try to take a nap
In addition to there being a decline in the amount of work you have to do, you might start feeling tired at a certain point. This is not uncommon, especially in the beginning until you get used to the new schedule. Luckily, some jobs allow you to take a nap in a specialized break room. For instance, a 20-minute nap during your break can be just what you need. However, more than that can affect your productivity and make you even sleepier so make sure to set an alarm.
Stay safe when going home
After you are done with your shift, it is important to have your ride home figured out. Of course, if you work from home, this is not a problem. However, if you are feeling too exhausted after your shift, you should not drive yourself home under any circumstances. You will pose not only a threat to yourself but to other people as well and driving when tired significantly impacts your reflex times. Either get a taxi or use public transport. There is no need to put anyone in danger.
Get some food and go to sleep
Once you’re home, you’ll want a shower and some tasty food. However, after that is done, do not let yourself get distracted by your phone or TV. As tempting as it might sound, now is not the time to catch up on your favorite shows. Turn off your phone, close your blackout curtains and minimize the noises to the best of your ability. Go to your bed and don’t use the couch – you need proper rest, especially if you have another night shift the same day. Depending on when you finish your shift, you can consider sleeping for anywhere from six to eight hours.
Prepare for the next day
Sleep, however, is not enough to properly recover after your shift and before the next one. Get out of the house when you wake up. You should probably go to the store to get all the ingredients for your future meal preps – this can be done once a week or every single day, whichever fits your schedule better. Then, you can get a little bit of exercise in, as we mentioned earlier, or you can just chill and relax at home while watching an interesting show. If another night shift is in store for you, you should also consider napping for an hour or two, to be well-rested before you head to work.
When your period of night shifts comes to an end, you should consider treating yourself. Go on a nice date with your partner, go to the theater, concert or cinema, get a delicious meal that would simply not sit well with you before or during work, and so on. You know best what will make you feel good so don’t ignore your own wishes and needs.
These thirteen tips will be vital when it comes to properly preparing for a night shift and surviving it. Make sure you get enough rest, stay hydrated and eat healthily, look for ways to stay awake during slow days and treat yourself when you get a chance.