Switching to the night shift can trigger a through-the-looking-glass-type experience. It’s not just a matter of changing your work schedule. Your life schedule gets completely altered.
More than that, your relationship with the outside world shifts. You need to think about when things will be open. You need to worry about falling asleep at odd hours and about eating at times when your body might not be accustomed to being hungry. It can take some time to get acclimated.
Which is why the first time on the night shift can be so discombobulating. It’s a new world you’re visiting for the first time. Here are some tips to get through that first shift:
Get Plenty of Sleep
The hardest part of adjusting to the night shift is altering your sleep schedule. Start getting ready ahead of your first day. If you have the opportunity, spread the adjustment out over a few days. Start shifting your sleep patterns a few hours each day, until you are somewhat used to the new situation.
Also, take time to prepare your bedroom. You’ll be sleeping when the sun is up, and other people are out and about. You might need thicker shades, an eye mask or a white noise machine to drown out the outside world.
Exercise Before Work
Energize your body with a trip to the gym before heading to work. Or if you don’t have time for a full workout, take a jog or get in some yoga. It allows you to shake off the cobwebs on your way into work, helping you get through the first part of the shift.
Settling too deeply into a routine can invite the sandman. You don’t want to risk falling asleep on the job, so schedule breaks throughout the evening.
Formal breaks, like for dinner, are helpful. But work in some mini-breaks as well, especially if you feel yourself starting to drag. Take a walk to the bathroom or go for a quick snack. Just a stroll through the hallway for a few minutes can get your head clear enough to continue.
Beyond break time, find excuses to keep your blood pumping. If your eyelids get heavy or if you feel like your concentration is starting to wander, pause what you’re doing to stretch.
If that isn’t enough, take a walk. Run up and down a staircase a few times. Try a few jumping jacks. Anything to rev up the motor a bit and get you through the rough part of the evening.
The easy answer to staying alert: caffeine. However, this can have long-term health implications. It also has diminishing returns. As your body becomes used to the caffeine, you need larger doses to keep you awake. In the end, you’re just drinking coffee to stave off headaches.
A better long-term solution comes from your diet. Protein and complex carbohydrates will keep your body fueled. Also, keep plenty of (healthy) snacks around. When you start to drag, they can become a pick-me-up.
Finding a position that fits your lifestyle is key to a healthy and satisfying life. Whether you prefer the day shift or the night shift, a good recruiter can place you in the ideal situation. Contact DHR today to find out more.