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Things No One Tells You About Working the Night Shift

by Parag Patel 5 years ago in advice / career / humanity
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Most consider working the night shift unimaginable, but there's more to it than you think. 

The night shift is the dead zone of employment. Whether you're a nurse, a concierge, a security guard, or any one of those brazen folks who dares take on what most consider the worst shifts imaginable, we salute you!

But while the peace and quiet that, very occasionally, occurs may sound ideal—because, hey, you can finally finish reading that book you've been on since 1984, there's more to working the night shift than you'd think. Don't believe us?

These are the truths; these are the things no one tells you about working the night shift.

The Routine Destroys Your Body's Rhythm

You start work at 10 PM, you're going to bed at 7 AM. Pretty soon that sort of lifestyle is going to have a serious impact on your body's inner workings, particularly your circadian rhythm, no matter how accustomed to working the night shift you are. If you're sleeping when it's light out, and waking when it's dark, frankly your body's going to be screaming "What's going on here?!." And sure, it'll try to adjust itself, but it just won't work.

You'll Feel Like All You Do Is Work and Sleep

If you're on the day shift, you'll probably get home, watch a bit of TV and pop dinner on. If you've just worked the night shift, the first thing you'll do is fall into bed and sleep. Sure, it makes sense that this is what you'd do after some hard graft, but because you'll probably do that every time you're on lates, to the point where it feels that it's all you ever do. What's worse is that, even after you've stopped working nights, you'll still find your body won't clock in and clock out at the hours it should.

And You'll Fall Sleep at Weird Times Too

Remember that circadian rhythm that's all out of whack? Well, another effect of that is that you'll fall asleep at strange times, as your body loses all sense of normalcy. You'll sit down, exhausted, to eat dinner, and find your eyes are closing before you've even taken a bite. You'll crash the moment you sit down on the couch to relax. And just about any other time, for that matter. The point is, you can lose all control of when and where you fall asleep, and end up sleeping at the weirdest times imaginable.

"No Bosses" Isn't as Great As It Sounds

You know who almost definitely won't be working the night shift with you? Your boss. But while not having a manager hanging around, constantly checking up on you may sound brilliant, it's really, really not. Because when something goes desperately wrong, who are you going to call? Everyone else is asleep and you're left holding the fort (and taking the blame!). It's these sort of things no one tells you about working the night shift when you sign up for the job.

The Sun Becomes a Foreign Object

Because you're working nights, it can be a long time until you see the sun, particularly during the winter months, when the nights draw in and it gets dark early. That's a problem because the sun doesn't just make everything look lovely and bright and cheerful; the sun also keeps us healthy, since its rays can boost your immune system, your mood and helps your skin synthesize vitamin D, while killing microbes and aiding your immune system. So say bye-bye to the sun if you're on the night shift. The moon, on the other hand, oh you'll become intimately familiar with that, you vampire.

You'll Pick Up the Day Shift's Slack

You know what almost everyone on the day shift will say when they don't finish jobs? "Oh, the night shift will do it." Every. Darn. Time. So not only will you have to do your own work, which is kinda why you're there after all, but you'll also have to do work left behind by other people. It doesn't matter that you might not have time to complete the tasks, because who are you going to tell anyway? The day shifters are all tucked up into bed already.

No One Realizes You're Busy at Night

Folks who work the day shift probably think you do next to nothing when you start work. After all, how can anyone on the night shift do anything anyway? Everyone's asleep, particularly in hospitals. But anyone who's been on even one night shift knows that it's a pretty hectic time (not least because of the above). Not that will stop you getting the blame if work hasn't been done—everyone will think you sat around and just played poker all night because you're lazy.

You'll Eat Out of Vending Machines

We hope you like potato chips, chocolate, and cans of Coke, because that's the only thing you'll be eating unless you bring food from home. Don't even think about heading down to the cafeteria for a proper meal, because there's no one working the night shift down there, just so you can eat. And if you do manage to scrounge some leftover food in the cafe, it's probably going to be as appetizing as you'd expect after spending hours sitting on the cafeteria shelf. In fact, it's probably best not to eat anything at all, if that's what's on offer.

No More Social Life for You

You're a great person, and you've got tons of friends, right? Too bad you'll never get a chance to see them. Plans will be made, but you won't be able to join in the fun, because you'll probably be slaving away at work—or you'll have work the next night. Either way, while all your pals are going out and enjoying themselves, you won't be. Presumably that's why this is one of those things no one tells you about working the night shift.

And People Forget You Work Nights

Whether it's people on the day shift, or your family and friends, they'll all forget that you were working the night before. So expect to receive a ton of texts and emails, invitations to events, your work mates calling up to find out the status of certain jobs, and your great aunt just popping over to see you. Rather than remember that you were on nights, they'll just assume you're having a day off. And just listen out for that surprised tone in their voice when they find out you're asleep when they're all up and working—as if you're the slacker.

The Night Shift Folks Will Become Your Friends

It's not all bad news when you're working the night shift—one of the best things to come out of it is the fact that everyone who's on the same shift will almost instantaneously bond. These people will become to friends and extended family. It's a bit like being a soldier in war, really, because no one who isn't working the hours you work can relate to what it's really like on lates. It's almost like an exclusive club. An exclusive club with a strange sleeping schedule.

You'll Grow to Love Night Shifts (Maybe)

You know, for all the bad things that working the night shift may bring, there will probably be a part of you that grows to enjoy it. Some night shift workers begin to really enjoy working the shifts that others would hate. Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe it's because there's just a little bit more freedom when you're on nights, or you like to help people who need 24/7 care, but it can be incredibly easy to adapt so perfectly to the weird working hours, that in the end you kinda sorta love it, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

No two ways about it, it is certainly a different experience taking on the night shift, and it's not one that many people are brave enough to do. And we reckon these are the things no one tells you about working the night shift because if they did, would you really want to do it? It can feel like a hangover without the booze beforehand; and so many of the people who will join you will find out that they can't hack it and move on to another shift—or another job. But not you, because you're awesome. Well done, night shifters.


About the author

Parag Patel

Born in the United Kingdom. He was conceived on a pot plantation and hasn't left since.

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