In our line of work, mostly all of us have had to come face-to-face with that graveyard shift. Those who have been there can only know just how much of a drain it can really be. You’re not just exhausted that night. If you don’t handle it right, it can throw off your schedule even when you’re off the clock so you don’t have the energy to spend time with friends and family, run errands, etc.
Here are 8 tips to stay alert & awake during your next night / graveyard shift and not let it dominate your life outside of work.
1. Plan Ahead
Overnight security jobs often feature changing rosters which will sometimes have you working during daytime hours and then switching to nighttime shifts. It’s crucial to plan ahead so that you know what you're going to be doing, in order to schedule life accordingly. This way, you can map out a pattern for your sleeping regimen, as well as making plans for downtime. Make sure you're taking note of precisely when you are switching from day to night or the other way around. If you make heavy personal plans on a weekend when you are transitioning, this might mean you will be over-tired for that first night shift. On the flip side, you might even find yourself with a whole extra day off when you go from nights to days. We encourage you to use that time to see family and friends and to make the most of that added time. It’s also worth using night shifts to get errands done in the morning hours when you're off the clock, for instance. Doctors appointments, getting a car serviced, getting the week’s groceries bought when the market is quiet during the weekday; these are all perks. You can take advantage of those morning hours when there are less crowds.
It’s crucial that you drink lots of water whether you are on a night shift or a day shift. However, it’s even more important for bodies that are switching sleep patterns.
Water is an excellent way to keep yourself awake, alert and feeling fresh. By taking a gulp from a bottle of water while driving has been known to instantly stimulate motorists on long nighttime drives. If someone is dehydrated, sleep can be very interrupted. Keep a large bottle of water or several water bottles with you during your shifts, as it is a useful way to remain feeling fresh and will enable you to function better both mentally and physically. This will, in turn, help you sleep better when that long night shift is finally over and it comes to time to go home and hit the hay.
3. Blacking It Out: Adjust Sleeping Spaces
If, when you finish a night shift, it is light outside, adjust your bedroom for daytime sleeping. It’s not only distracting to sleep with light pouring into the room, it can have a disparaging effect on the quality of your sleep. In addition, there are mental issues attached to going to bed during daylight hours, when everyone else is only just getting up and starting their day. To resolve this, you might want to add blackout curtains or blinds to your room, shutting out the daylight totally. You might also want to sleep with your bedroom door closed. It might also not be a bad idea to crack a window, even in winter, just so that a little fresh air can circulate. Make sleeping spaces cozy and comforting, as one would want to anyway. This will all help with the body’s circulation rhythm (aka your body clock).
4. Straight to Bed?
Adjusting to night shift patterns are very much a case of what’s right for the individual. Figuring out whether you function better if you go home after the shift and head straight to bed, or whether you need to wind down a little first is extremely important.
If the latter, relax when at home. Watch the TV shows missed while at work and enjoy a relaxing beverage. Eat a healthy snack. Wind down and treat this period of the work day as the ‘evening time’. If this doesn’t work, head straight to bed. If you feel that you're tired, it’s best to just get rest right away.
5. Set an Alarm
It’s tempting on this kind of shift pattern to go straight to bed after work and just allow sleep for however long you want. However, try to not to do this every time. You may feel 100 times more productive and less lethargic if you use some of the day before you start your night shift to get up and do things. If you go to bed at 7 AM, for example, set an alarm for mid-afternoon. This way you can have a hearty breakfast, do a workout, and get other duties done before you begin work again that evening. Work out how much sleep is right for you.
6. Take a Bath / Shower After Shift
If you like to really unwind after a night shift, you might want to have a warm bubble bath or a shower after your shift, before going to bed. By simply taking a warm tub or a hot shower, you will be able to relax and feel fresh and clean, which will help you sleep better through the day. Make sure bedding is changed regularly so it’s comfy and clean after a long overnight shift. Home comforts like this can help immeasurably.
7. Don’t Overdo It on the Caffeine
Keep tabs on the amount of caffeine you may intake as the day and night goes on. You might be tempted to overdo it with coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks in order to stay alert and awake. While you have every right to – just as people who work daytime shifts do too – it’s extremely important to know there’s also a crash with caffeine. This will make you tempted to drink more of it. Don’t. A great tip for learning about a body’s ability to handle caffeine is to test it out while on a day shift. That way you'll know what you should be drinking during the night shift when you transition from each.
8. Plan Your Meals Properly
Food not only keeps us going and helps us with momentum when it comes to working, it can raise spirits. So, plan ahead and know what foods you will be eating, and when, on a night shift. Try and have a larger first meal when you first wake up, and then a decent lunch, and then more of a snack as a third meal, which by this point will be closer to the time you will be heading to bed the next morning. It’s never great to go to bed on a full stomach but equally, eating something before bedtime can help with sleep and kick-start nighttime metabolism. If you stick to a routine, you'll find it easier to revert back to daytime eating patterns too.
American Alliance Security Agency, Inc.