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The Joys of Night-Shift

I had been planning on writing about working night-shift at some point – since it’s 4am and I haven’t slept for three hours, I might as well start now.  Yes, it’s my day off.

I’ve mentioned my job before in previous posts.  I’ve been there for nearly six years, and while it’s not exactly glamorous or in any way a career, it suits my, and our, circumstances.

I took the job when MM was a baby and at that point I worked back-shift.  However, when our four kids were all born and were ready for nursery and school, I decided that it was time for a change – the kids were going to be out in the mornings, and I wouldn’t be at home in the afternoons, so we would only see each other on weekend mornings or my days off.

So I applied, and was accepted, for a post in the same job, working nights on a rotating shift basis.  To be honest, working night-shift was something that had always appealed to me.  My late father had done the same for many years and the ‘anti-social’ hours didn’t phase me.

That was nearly two years ago, and it’s proven to be the right decision.  It’s not perfect though, so let’s deal with the negatives.

Sleep.  Obviously it’s an issue, probably the biggest.  Your whole body-clock is thrown out of kilter and it really takes some getting used to.  Personally, I would say it was probably a full six months before I adjusted to my new hours.

My biggest problem was in the second-half of my shift, I would find myself drifting off, particularly if I wasn’t busy.  There are various remedies: caffeine-filled energy drinks, going outside for some fresh air or splashing cold water on your face all work to varying degrees, but none of them are a match for getting a good sleep before you come to work.

My role involves me spending most of my time sitting at a desk – I’m not sure if this is more of a contributing factor than if, for instance, I worked in a job that was outdoors, or was more physically demanding.  I suppose it depends on the individual.

Back to that point about getting a decent sleep.  Our street is relatively quiet so I don’t do too badly, but it must be a nightmare for anyone living on main roads, in city centres or in busy blocks of flats or apartments.  People going about their lives during the day – whether it be family, kids or neighbours – can’t be expected to tiptoe around during daylight hours.

I also find it far easier to fall asleep in the dark mornings of winter, rather in the bright summer sun.

There have been a few occasions when, for one reason or another, I haven’t got enough sleep (I usually need minimum 5-6 hours).  Those nights at work can be tough, regardless of how many artificial stimulants you have at your disposal.

There are other drawbacks.  Sometimes when you look outside on a dark winter’s night, and it’s cold and wet, icy or snowing, you would give anything to be staying in.

Your first day off is not a full day either.  When I arrive home from my last shift, I need at least a couple of hours in bed to keep me going for the remainder of the day.

I think it could also be tough working nights if you are looking to climb the career ladder.  Very few professions are nights only and in many cases I think if it’s the hours that suit, then you may have to be content with just a ‘job’, rather than something a bit more challenging.

For parents though, I think there are far more positives.  I usually wake up around the time my two oldest kids are due to finish school, meaning I’m often able to collect them.  I then have the rest of the day to help with homework, sit down together for our evening meal, and generally spend time together.

Contrast that with a parent who works office hours and commutes – they may be lucky to see their kids for more than an hour a day.

Being at work during the wee small hours, I encounter far fewer managers than my counterparts who work ‘normal’ hours.  In my book, less management equals less office politics.

While sleeping in daylight may not be to everyone’s liking, it does allow for a degree of flexibility.  If one of the kids has an appointment or there’s a nativity or some other show at school or nursery, I can attend and sleep before and/or after.  My rotating shift pattern also means it’s nice to have the some days off during the week as well as weekends.

There is one other benefit for me, I have time to run to work and back.  Some people probably think I’m mad but I love it.  I feel more awake when I get to work and the return journey in the morning helps me to sleep.

These last couple of days off have been a bit strange.  I overslept on my first day off and haven’t really recovered meaning I’m feeling sleepy and waking up at bizarre times.

It’s clearly not for everyone, but for parents looking to achieve a suitable work-life balance, there are worse options than night-shift..


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