Although working 9 to 5 is the most typical schedule for an American worker, about 15 percent of workers in the U.S. work on shifts outside of the traditional daytime hours.* Some people are able to work through the night with no problems, while others can experience several health issues associated with their night shift schedule.
Pros of working the night shift:
- The commute is less stressful.
- There are fewer disruptions while working.
- There is more time during the day to take care of errands or focus on a passion/ hobby.
Cons of working the night shift:
- Eating schedule is altered
- Sleep schedule is altered – this can affect the efficiency of your performance. Human error is an important factor in work accidents, and sleep deficit can lead to workplace injury.
- Disruption of family and social activities – family and marital responsibilities can be disrupted. For example, childcare, housework, shopping, and leaving a partner alone at night can lead to strain on your relationship and eventually cause family dysfunction.
Sleep schedule problems:
Night shifts cause you to battle against your natural rhythms by trying to be alert when you are programmed to sleep. When you get home after a night shift, the cues from your internal body clock and daytime light exposure tell you to be awake and active.
Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function at their best. Working at night means you have to successfully manage your sleep during the day. Daytime sleep can be lighter, shorter, and of poorer quality than sleep at night due to light, noise, and temperature.
Tips to keep your sleep schedule in check:
- Don’t delay going to bed – as soon as you get home from your shift and feel tired, go to sleep! The longer you delay going to bed, the more awake you are going to be.
- Dedicate time for sleep – make sure you have 7 to 9 hours of your daytime after a night shift strictly dedicated to sleeping.
- Eat and drink before going to bed – hunger and thirst can wake you up and disrupt your sleep. Avoid this by making sure your stomach is full before sleeping.
- Avoid alcohol before you sleep – there’s a misconception that alcohol can help you sleep. The truth is that alcohol can help you fall asleep, but once you’re asleep the alcohol actually diminishes sleep quality and disturbs the deep stages of sleep, which will leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day.
- Avoid smoking before bed – Nicotine is a stimulant and can cause you to have difficulty sleeping.
- Stay away from activities that make you feel alert after your night shift.
- Make sure the room you’re sleeping in is quiet, dark, and comfortable – Use earplugs to block out daytime noise. Blackout curtains are useful and can help provide background noise while circulating the air and keeping the room cool and comfortable.
- Let your family and friends know your work and sleep schedule – this will ensure that they don’t disturb you while you’re trying to sleep.
Following these tips will improve your quality of sleep, and in return will improve your quality of work. Overall, if you are working on the night shift, you do a job that only a fraction of society will even consider. It isn’t always the most proclaimed sacrifice, but it’s one that is made so the rest of the world can sleep.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics