10 tips to help when you're working nights
08th October 2015
Those final hours of your night shift can leave you feeling like a dead man walking. That's because human beings aren’t meant to be nocturnal creatures. It’s only natural to want to close the curtains and crawl under the covers at bedtime. Even people who are night owls rarely want to stay up the WHOLE night.
So if you’re a night shift worker, maybe in healthcare, security or working offshore, you can have a real fight on your hands to make it through the night. Instead of suffering throughout your shift, we want to make sure you stay motivated and bright-eyed all night long.
With this in mind, we’ve put together ten top tips to help you through your night shift and beat the tick tock of your body clock.
Let’s start before your shift...
1. Get out and about
As your night shift looms, don’t sit inside awaiting your fate - make the most of your day. Make sure you get outside for some fresh air, run a few errands and see your friends. Getting your blood pumping with some light exercise will release endorphins to make you feel more alert and less stressed before you get into your uniform.
2. Then rest up a bit
It’s a good idea to get home in time to top up with a few hours sleep and wake up feeling fresh. Waking up during the twilight hours is hardly going to put a spring in your step (especially during those winter months) but a natural light alarm clock just might! Using a gradual brightness similar to that of the morning sunrise, you’ll wake up naturally and feeling more refreshed.
3. Don’t overeat
The idea of comfort eating before your shift sounds good but it’ll probably just leave you feeling sluggish - instead of get up and go, you’ll be more likely to lay down and snooze. So keep your last supper light and packed full of fresh ingredients to keep you awake. Salmon is a good choice because it’s packed full of omega-3, a great energy boost. For a quick and tasty pre-work snack try smoked salmon and scrambled eggs to boost your metabolism.
Snack ideas for your shift: bran cereal bars, dark chocolate, walnuts and lots of water!
4. Avoid a heavy night beforehand
As tempting as it may be to enjoy the night before, think about how you’re going to feel afterwards. Yes, you do have the day to recover but, do you want be dragging your heels? You’re better off cooling it after one or two drinks, switching to water and getting to bed at a reasonable time.
You should completely avoid alcohol in the lead up to your shift, not just for the obvious reasons - like your responsibility as an employee! But also, you want to be alert and performing at your best even during those night time hours.
What about during your shift?
5. Caffeine isn’t always your friend
It’s natural to reach for a coffee when your eyelids start to droop. The smell of freshly ground beans is a natural mood lifter, and if all you’ve got is instant, well it’ll have to do! However, drinking coffee or tea after the halfway point in your shift can put the kibosh on getting to sleep when you get home. It’s the ultimate frustration after a hard day’s night to be staring at the ceiling when all you want to do is sleep. If you can’t bear herbal teas, try decaff or just plain old water, a breath of fresh air and five minutes’ change of scenery.
6. Keep busy to the end
As the light at the end of that night shift tunnel draws near, now’s the time to get active. Don’t start slacking otherwise those hours will only start dragging! Instead, make sure you have some work to do and stay busy right up until the end. Rather than clock watching, time will fly by and you’ll be clocking out of your shift in no time at all.
Then on your way home…
7. Let everyone know you need to rest in the day
On your way home, send your nearest and dearest a reminder text that you’ve just finished your night shift whilst they’ve been snoozing! So you’re going into hibernation for the next few hours. It might also be a good idea to set your phone to mute and change your social media statuses to offline. In fact, just turn everything off! The most important thing for you to do at the end of your night shift is switch off and rest up.
8. Wear your shades on the way home
Not only will this keep away all of your screaming fans (...), it’ll also keep you in night mode. Like coming out of the cinema after a lunchtime screening, the bright daytime sun probably isn’t welcome after a long shift in the dark. It’ll trigger your body into wake up mode and make it harder for you to sleep when you get home.
9. Don’t stop!
Try not to stop on your way home. Running errands or meeting friends will wake your brain up when you need to be winding down. That said, you might find you need to spend some time winding down when you get home, but do it with the curtains closed or you’ll start waking up again. Many people find reading more relaxing than watching TV. Personally, I find a bit of talk radio at low volume works.
10. Keep your room calm and cool
Sleeping in a room that’s too room is warm is a recipe for a restless sleep. Instead, buy some blackout blinds, keep the radiator off and stick in some earplugs. A cool and calming environment is the best way to ensure the peaceful kip you deserve.
At RIFT, we help people who work offshore, in construction, healthcare, security and the Armed Forces claim tax refunds on their work-related travel costs.
We’re open until 8.30pm Monday – Thursday, ‘til 6.30pm on Fridays and 9-1 on Saturdays, so even if you work irregular hours, you can still talk to us about your tax refund and sleep well knowing it’s in safe hands.