Dealing with night shifts

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by Taff, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. Taff

    Taff The Inevitable Hulk

    I know there's a number of members here who've done night shifts, or still do them, so I'm looking for advice. I've done them long enough to get a general routine that works OK, but there's always room for improvement.

    I usually work 2, 3 or 4 in a row. Sometimes I go to work in the morning, finish at 2PM then come back at 10PM that night. I suppose in one month I might work 6 in total, and also do early morning shifts, regular 9-5 shifts, and evening shifts (2-10).

    I mostly have few problems falling to sleep after night shift, even though in January it's brilliantly light when I get home :(
    I have solved this with an eye mask, since no matter what I try I can't block the light from coming through the window, and the landlords are not keen to allow me to get blackout curtains.
    I also use ear plugs to block out general noise, though they can't stop everything, and I sleep with a fan on to provide some white noise.

    Frequently I sleep from about 7:30AM until around midday. Then I wake up, but can usually go back to sleep until around 3PM, although the second sleep is quite a lot lighter.
    This may not sound great, but compared to many of my colleagues I do a reasonable job. Some people will only get 3-4 hours total in between night shifts because they are unable to sleep during the day.
    I will get up at 3/4PM, have a shower and breakfast and then vegetate. This is the only time in my life I watch TV. I feel anaesthatised (is that a word?). After an hour of this, I'm tired again, and usually go back to sleep for an hour. If the weather is decent I go for a walk, but tend to feel a little like the walking dead.
    After this last sleep I feel pretty good, have dinner later and in the evening I start to "wind up" and generally feel OK. Sometimes I go to the pub or a party before night shift starts at 10PM (no alcohol of course). Because after 8PM I pretty much can't sleep anymore.

    So I would say my main issues are:

    1) I want to be able to sleep longer in one go. If I could sleep non stop to 3PM that would be brilliant. Any tips on how to do this? Is it really possible?
    2) Issues with digestion. Without getting into excessive detail, nights really stuff this up. I quite often have a "churning" stomach for much of the day. This never resolves itself until I finish the whole run of shifts and get to sleep at night.
    3) Enjoyment of life. I find it hard to truly enjoy my life whilst on nights, and am prone to feeling very gloomy, or feeling "nothing". Also, my fuse shortens considerably and can go from feeling neutral to flying off the handle far too quickly. It's really astonishing the things that **** me off at such times.
    4) Training. I will never train "in between" night shifts. It's a bit of a disaster. But it's fine training after the last night.

    Some of this stuff you may say I should ask a doctor, but it's surely like turning up and saying "when I drink lots of alcohol I wake up with a bad head and feel sick the next day". All this is standard fare night shift stuff, and the real solution is basically to stop doing them but that is not an option for me.

    I have heard that melatonin is worth trying, but I'm a little confused as to whether you are supposed to take it after you've finish your run of nights and are adjusting back into night-sleeping again, or if you take it to help you sleep during the day?
  2. Taff

    Taff The Inevitable Hulk

    PS, yes I've asked this question before, but in less specific terms ;)
  3. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    nightcap? :)
  4. Taff

    Taff The Inevitable Hulk

    I have considered it ;)
    I've actually drunk kava before going to sleep before, but think I need a stronger dose.
  5. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I believe it's not as refreshing a sleep but it's better than none at at. The chemists ell all sort of potions to help relax you before bed, maybe one of these might help. Its a long, long time since I worked a night shift and was young enough not to be that bothered if I missed the odd sleep, now if I do a shop-fit it's working all day then most of the night, getting to sleep isn't a problem then. Good luck :Angel:
  6. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    You're getting 7-7 and a half hours sleep, that's good. Alcohol will make you more likely to wake up, and over the counter sedatives shouldn't be used long term, and are best used to deal with turning around back to days. You don't seem to have a huge problem with sleeping in the day, you're problem seems more to be that you're not given enough time to prepare and recover.
  7. Ular Sawa

    Ular Sawa Valued Member

    I did shift work for years without much choice. I During one long stretch I discovered that the local city pool opened for lap swimming about the time I got off work. I would go swim and then sleep with no problems. Also lost about 15 pounds too. Good luck.
  8. rivend

    rivend Valued Member

    I worked deep night shift for a while and got physically ill and went to the doctor he told me that being human we are not nocturnal and my body would never fully adjust to working all night and I would not be able to fully feel good on this job as I would with normal hours .So I quit and found one with normal hours
  9. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I tink your doctor was guessing. By choice I'd much rather be up all night and sleep during much of the day
  10. Sam

    Sam Absent-ish member

    I did similiar when I was on night shifts but rather than knock me out I used it to wake me up. Would work from 11pm until 8am - have breakfast as dinner and then go windsurfing or do a lap of the lake. I would then stay up and keep myself active, rather than just veg out in front of the TV, sleep from about 3 or 4pm and get up to go back to work 10pm.

    I tried sleeping straight away but found that basically turning my whole life onto a different time zone worked better!
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2011
  11. rivend

    rivend Valued Member

    Moi he ran it down to me as a waking process our bodies go through and from the hours of 3am to about 6am certain things go on in a humans body as for quality rest I hated the job so I took his word as fact.
  12. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    I work 1900-0700hrs sometime 2-3 nights in a row.

    Just before these shifts I will stay up till about 3am which kinda forces me through to sleep till about Noon. Pre-planning will give me time to have a possible nap in the afternoon or basically just stay in bed.
    From then on, it'll be like normal. Going home, bite to eat then sleep. Then on the days off after, I'll get home by about 0800hrs. Nap till about 1200 and then carry on as normal.
  13. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I think it's what you get used to. Permanent night would be easier than shifts as you'd get used to them. Day and night has little to do with it as depending on were you are on the planet can be very different things
  14. Kwajman

    Kwajman Penguin in paradise....

    Melatonin is a naturally occuring hormone that helps regulates the body sleep cycle. Take it about two hours before you want to nod off, start with the smallest dose, 1mg and see if it helps, if it doesn't work your way up to 3mg, that'll work.

    Also, vodka tonics and xanax work too, puts you right out.
  15. Taff

    Taff The Inevitable Hulk

    Thanks guys. I can't imagine doing windsurfing or swimming at the end of night shift! I know some people that head to the gym and that's beyond me too. I'm pretty much asleep within 15 minutes of getting home (very rarely 30 minutes), and all I do is brush my teeth and jump into bed.
    I really should try harder to get some better exercise when I wake up mid/late afternoon.

    Unfortunately I won't be experimenting with melatonin anytime soon because my shipment from the US got seized by the "New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority" and will be destroyed.
  16. Nathaniel Cooke

    Nathaniel Cooke Valued Member

    My girlfriend is a terrible light sleeper, and it;s really easy for her to knock her sleeping pattern out of kilter - we've just been through about three months of it, and like you say not an easy time. I've done some reading up as a result, and a lot of the literature seems to suggest poor sleeping patterns is habitual, as opposed to systemic, a lot of the time - i.e. you can't sleep because you can't sleep, as opposed to any external stimulus.

    We decided I'd have a week on the sofa so as not to disturb her, and she would take half a sleeping pill every night, no caffiene 4hrs before sleep, no food and write everything down from the day that had been on her mind. You can't take sleeping tablest long term obviously, bt for Jess they had the effect of changing her sleeping habit, broke the pattern of waking up at 3-4am and not getting back to sleep again.

    I know night shifts must be very different, but maybe try pills for a week to break the habit? Also, I hear aspirin is good for helping people get off to sleep for some reason!
  17. AnxietyCoachJoh

    AnxietyCoachJoh Valued Member

    I done night shifts before, first month I've hardly, but I discovered that exercise help us relaxed and can help us sleep really tight, just simple exercise will do :D
  18. stephacts238

    stephacts238 Valued Member

    I am currently working a third shift 11pm-8 am. I stay away from anything that is typically relaxing like hot showers, baths watching tv after 6pm. My usuall schedule is waking up at 3pm with enough time to shower eat breakfast pack my lunch for work later then head off to dojo teach/train from 430 pm till 9pm then go home eat supper change drive to work. Once im off and home I take my dogs for a walk just to get my mind to shut up. There is a johnson and johnsons baby shampoo made to help put them asleep that actully does help me get to sleep. Between training working and walking im dead asleep till 2-3 ish its only 6 hours sleep tops but it is enough for the 5 mid shifts i have every week.
  19. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    @ Taft - using the eye patches to block out all light is good. Even the tiniest light can set the body off into no-sleep mode. The little red light coming from your LED light on your alarm clock for example. So total black out is good.

    Also dropping the temp a bit by switching on the aircon. Cooler temps bring out a natural hibernation effect in humans. Crank that AC.

    Dose on something like ZMA - Zinc, Magnesium and Vit. B6 - nice combo to get a very deep sleep. I don't think nightshifts are healthy or normal for most humans. But if you must then try to get as much help as you can.

    Skip alcohol, sleeing pills, anti-anxiety pills (valiums/xanax etc) though... longer term problems than just lack of sleep arise.

    Check out the PDF called Sleep Hacks... always kicking around on the net. Very good read for sleep.
  20. Chimpcheng

    Chimpcheng Yup... Giant cow head... Supporter

    Watch any episode of tv show 'Sex and the City' and you're guaranteed sleep. However, be extremely careful, watch more than 15 to 20 minutes and you might find that you wish you died during your sleep or wished that you had never been born...

    SATC - Always read the label.

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