Ah the nocturnal life. I must admit, at first I totally loved it. I was great at switching back and forth from nights for work to days for my days off. I could easily conquer the day on two hours of sleep. Over and over again. It was great! I never wanted to leave nights. I figured I would stay on night shift forever. For three years I functioned very well like this. I could sleep on command and had no problem waking up when I wanted to. Until that fourth year came around. It didn’t happen overnight. I started to notice that it was harder and harder for me to sleep at night. I would lie awake for hours trying to fall asleep only to eventually start getting up and watching TV until the early hours of the morning. As I started having trouble sleeping at night – even on my days off – I would then sleep all day long as if I had become completely nocturnal. Gone were the days of easily flipping back and forth from nights to days and then back again. It has taken me a lot of time, but with the help of coffee and alarm apps that force me to do several math problems to turn them off – seriously guys, Mathe Alarm is such a gift – I have developed a slightly adjusted nocturnal lifestyle.
On the first day of my work stretch, I will try my best to get up around 1 or 2 pm. Try is the keyword there. I tell myself that I’m going to get up at a certain time a lot only to end up sleeping for three hours past that. If I do manage to get out of bed at 1 or 2, I usually snuggle up in bed on my phone for awhile. I would like to tell you it’s for fifteen minutes while I allow myself to wake up, but that would be a straight up lie. It’s more like an hour… sometimes two… not kidding. As ashamed as I am to admit that, I will say that sometimes I am doing productive things during that time – checking my email or posting on my blog instagram – but sometimes I watch YouTube and scroll through Twitter too so… When I eventually emerge from my bed – if we’re sticking with this timeline, it ends up being 3 or 4 pm. I ALWAYS open the blinds first thing. The thing about working nights is that you start to really miss the sun. Especially in the winter when the sun is not out as long – yay for Michigan. But after the blinds are open and my eyes adjust to the first smidgen on sunlight that I’ve seen in 24 hours, I make myself a cup of coffee and breakfast. One thing that has been interesting since I started working nights, is that I need coffee to function now. I made it through four years of college without drinking coffee – except as a treat for myself during occasional Starbucks runs with friends. I used to only be able to stomach lattes with extra sugar or a half cup of cream/half cup of coffee type deal. And now I drink coffee black. I drink nasty coffee black. Dark roast, medium roast, blonde roast, it’s all the same to me. Luxury coffee has become a thing of the past. I now scoff at lattes and their complete lack of caffeine. Cream to me now means less room for coffee. I have – I kid you not – been at bars with friends or with Nick, and while everyone else around me ordered a beer or a cocktail, I got a coffee. My day is useless without coffee. Working nights, it’s something you accept and learn to deal with and it simply becomes part of your day. I don’t go to work without it, I make sure that I have plenty more to make myself at work, and sometimes have some more hours before I go to sleep and I can still crash every morning no problem.
After the coffee is in my system and I can start to process that I’m awake, I will usually shower – I try to work out, another time the keyword is try, rarely succeed – and then curl up on the couch and watch my latest Netflix obsession. After one episode, I usually have time to make my lunch and get ready for work. Now, I’m obsessed with makeup and playing with makeup, but I rarely put makeup on for work. By the time I get ready, leave for work, tackle my twelve and a half hour shift, drive home and get ready for bed, it has been a solid fourteen hours. I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever had the great privilege of wearing makeup for fourteen hours, you’ll know that it is not worth it. I don’t care if the package says it’s 24 hour foundation or mascara, it still leaves you feeling grimy and smudged after fourteen hours. Additionally, I have oily skin – and I use good makeup products for oily skin – but those only stay nice for about eight hours and then I still have six hours left of looking like an oily disaster. I also like to be able to rub my tired eyes without smearing mascara all over the place – not that I know this from experience or anything.
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So I go to work at 7 pm, do work things for awhile, usually eat lunch around 12 or 1 am, do some more work things, make coffee around 2 or 3. If I don’t have coffee, I start to really struggle by 4 am and then I’m miserable for the rest of the night. I get off at 7:30 am, drive home, and I usually get to bed around 8 am. I sometimes convince myself to wash my face, but usually I just brush my teeth and crawl into bed. It’s weird, but for anyone who’s ever stayed up all night, when you lay down, you’re asleep in seconds. There’s no lying awake daydreaming or contemplating life, you’re out immediately. If I work the next night, I wake up around 4 pm, have coffee and breakfast, get ready for work, repeat. If I’m not back to work the next night, I will try – keyword try – to get up around 12 or 1 pm and not sleep all day. Again, this is one of the things that I sometimes accomplish and sometimes fail miserably. I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t ever been woken up by Nick coming home from work at 6 pm. If I do succeed, however, I will open the blinds and have my coffee (two cups usually) and try to have a normal productive day. That first day after my stretch is always rough, though. I’m usually so exhausted that I have to stay moving to not fall asleep and I am usually super grumpy. Not like snap at people grumpy, like cry when something is slightly inconvenient grumpy. It’s great.
On my first night off, I try to go to bed at a reasonable time, usually 12 or 1 am (I ate lunch 24 hours before this) and usually sleep for twelve hours. From there, the rest of my days off follow a slightly adjusted nocturnal pattern. I usually go to bed around 3 or 4 am and wake up around 11 am or noon. So I’m not totally flipping back and forth, but I still get up around noon and enjoy some sunlight and normal human interaction. It can definitely get lonely staying up until 4 am on a regular basis, but it also allows me to get some work done and have time to myself.
So there you go, the behind the scenes of what it’s like to work night shifts. I admire those that can do it for years and years and still love it. I think eventually I’m going to need to be on day shift because in the last year, it has really started to take a toll on me. It’s so hard never being able to sleep at the same time every day and trying to adjust your sleep schedule to have a life. I’m glad that I’ve been able to find a slightly adjusted nocturnal schedule, though. Does anyone else have any night shift routines that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below!