Career

12 struggles all night shift workers understand

LOL sleep.

1. It's nearly impossible to sleep interrupted for long periods of time during the day, thanks to interruptions like calls from telemarketers and knocks on your door. You might even have friends that call you just to chat because they thought today was your day off and you would be awake by now. Even if you do turn off your phone, shutting out the noise from lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and construction isn't as easy. And most businesses operate during the day, so if you have errands to run or you're expecting a repairman to fix your cable, you have to carve out the time to stay awake doing the things you need to do.

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2. You miss out on a lot of "normal" things unless you want to sacrifice even more sleep. It can be a struggle to feel connected with the rest of the world when you're working nights. Hopefully, you'll make friends with your co-workers and other night shift workers and you can plan activities that work with your schedules. But even with that, you usually have to miss out on any evening parties, going to a late movie, or seeing a play. If you're planning a first date, you'll have to be a little more creative with what you do and when you do it, or plan it for your night off. If you're a parent, it can be hard to make to volunteer at school events during the day.

3. Maintaining relationships with non-night shift people requires a lot of effort. Because you work such different hours, it's not really doable to meet up for dinner or drinks to catch up. And when you're available to talk on the phone, they might be at work or asleep. If you're in a relationship, you really need an understanding partner. Not being able to sleep at the same time for the majority of the week, or seeing your S.O. in between shifts definitely requires both of you to put in more effort to make things work.

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4. While some jobs are faster-paced than others, the struggle to stay awake is REAL. Your circadian rhythm sends out signals to your body that you should be sleeping at night and awake during the day. It might be harder for you to sleep longer intervals during the day, and you likely still feel tired at night when your body feels like it should be sleeping. If you work a night-shift in a hospital, it might be easier to stay awake because you're constantly doing something. But for a job that involves a lot of sitting and watching – like a security guard or attendant – you might find yourself nodding off.

5. If you want to do something besides stay in bed on your days off, you have to plan your sleep schedule strategically. If you work all night five days a week, you have to make a decision when it comes to your days off: Do you find something to do and stay up during the day to sleep at night, or do you stick with your schedule and end up awake with nothing to do at night? You'll probably prefer to have the opportunity to do stuff during the day, but you'll also be extra tired from rearranging your sleep schedule.

6. The first shift back after a few days off is especially brutal. Just like anyone after a weekend, readjusting to a work week is never easy. But it's especially hard for night shift workers. Your body likes sleeping at night, so after a few nights of "normal" sleep, trying to stay awake for an entire shift is even harder than usual.

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7. Driving home after a tiring shift can get scary. Studies have suggested that driving while sleep impaired is almost as bad as drunk driving. And when you're driving home at 7am after an eight-hour shift, it's scary how easy it is to start nodding off or lose focus on the road. If that happens, call someone, or pull into a parking lot to shut your eyes for 20 minutes. It's better to get home a little later than to be involved in an accident because you couldn't stay awake.

8. Finding the perfect caffeine intake for you is basically a science. If you don't drink enough caffeine, you're going to be dragging for your entire shift. If you drink too much or you drink it too late at night, you'll be jittery and you might not be able to fall asleep when you get home from your shift.

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9. If you have young kids, taking care of them during the day involves a lot of nap time. While it's definitely a plus to be able to spend time with your kids, your sleep schedule will be even less predictable. You'll be waiting for them to fall asleep so you can nap with them, and you'll be struggling to stay awake while they're up. You'll save a lot of money on childcare, but you'll be even more sleep deprived than most parents.

10. If you're in college, morning classes are the ultimate struggle. If you're lucky, you'll schedule most of your classes in the middle of the day so you can sleep right when you get back from your shift. But if you have class right after your shift, it feels like the equivalent of a college student with a normal sleep schedule to have a class at 1am.

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11. You might develop some health problems later on. When you're trying to stay awake, you'll probably turn to energy drinks and sugary or fast foods that are easy to get. Add that to your insufficient sleep, and you experience problems like high blood pressure and obesity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, long-term overnight shift workers have an increased of certain cancers, metabolic problems, heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems and obesity.

12. Non-night shift workers just don't understand how hard it really is. There are some people that have pulled all-nighters and think they know what it's like to stay up all night. Or they don't understand how you can "sleep the day away" if you do manage to sleep from 8am-4pm. But it takes a certain kind of strength to be awake at 4am night after night when everyone is sleeping and to watch the sun come up every morning as you're leaving work or getting ready to attempt to sleep. Whether you're working the night shift to get through college or to provide for your family, you know it's definitely not easy. But you also know you'll get through it – maybe with a little more coffee than the average person.

Source: Cosmo US