Graveyard shift workers act as the backbone of many industries. Grocery shelves are stocked, lives are saved, property is protected, roads are built and the after-hours club crowd is fed by people who choose to work when the rest of the community sleeps. Getting through what can be as many as 12 hours at a time is indeed challenging but not impossible. If you are not a natural born night owl, some suggestions can help you get through your very next shift.
Trick your mind and body into a more awakened state by buying a bright light that mimics daylight, like those used by Alaskan communities during periods of extended darkness. Ease out of this artificial state by driving home in dark glasses and a hat that shades your eyes, advises Lisa Shives, M.D.
Regulate your sleeping pattern to coincide with after-work down time, says night nurse Tom Trimble. Relax before trying to sleep so your mind can unwind and process what happened during the shift. Stay away from alcohol or sleeping aids as they can interfere with, rather than offer more, restful sleep and make getting through that next shift even harder.
Exercise regularly to maintain a constant state of physical stamina. Fortify your body with wise food choices to further bolster your endurance. Pay attention to subtle changes in body temperature throughout the night and drink or eat something warm to offset the hormonal lull. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Limit your caffeine to those times when you really need an immediate pick-me-up.
Juggle work tasks so you do something that requires a greater attention factor. Take a brisk walk outside while deeply breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, which will raise your heart rate and alertness at the same time.
Experiment with taking short power naps during the shift to determine if you become energized or more exhausted.