After the first stint of working night shift, I swore that I would never work it again. I did it for a long-lasting five months that honestly felt like five years. I spent the entire time sleep deprived. Either I slept too much or not enough. If someone did not hear from me in a while, it was safe to assume that I was sleep. I have gotten anywhere from 2 hours of sleep to 18 hours of sleep during this dreadful time period. I felt like a zombie and I probably looked like one too. I am known for having a pre-pubescent countenance but working on the opposite side of time aged me! Puffy eyes, dark circles and large (Birkin) bags became my new norm.
On top of my sleep-deprivation, I also kept getting sick. I have IBS-D and any small change in my life can exacerbate it. I knew that this sudden change in my sleep patterns would cause a flare-up and it probably is the worse one I have had to date. Once I finally got my condition under control, I ended up getting a bladder infection which is probably the result of too much caffeine, not enough water and for holding my urine for too long. Nurses hold their waste for an unhealthy amount of hours!
So you think it could not get worse right? Well I ended up being allergic to the medication that was supposed to cure my infection and trying to resolve an infection and allergic reaction is stressful.Then, my personal life was in shams. I felt like I never saw or talked to my friends. The relationship I was in at the same was suffering because he did not understand that since I worked at night that meant I had to sleep during the day. So you can imagine my apprehension when the cost of my getting my dream job meant I had to work night shift again temporarily.
So I have attempted (emphasis on attempted) to create a routine for myself to try to tolerate working the grave yard shift this time around. The most pivotal part of my routine is figuring out my sleep schedule. After much experimentation, I am realizing that there is no right way to get sleep because it is never enough.
Adjust My Sleep Schedule
When I am trying to prepare my body to stay up for my shift, I usually do one of two methods. Sometimes I will stay up really late (between 3:00 am and 6:00 am) and then sleep majority of the day away so that I am on that cycle. Staying up late usually means that I am binge watching a show or cleaning. The alternate method that I am fond of includes me sleeping throughout the night, the night before my shift. Then I usually wake up early and take a 3-4 hour nap.I like the latter better because it makes my sleeping patterns feel more normalized. Most importantly, I listen to my body and try to adjust my plan and the times I sleep based on how I am feeling.
Survive Off of Caffeine
I feel like caffeine and night shift go hand-in-hand. Surprisingly, I only use it when I need it. I do not have caffeine with every shift. Coffee is my go to and I only will drink pop (soda) when it is an emergency and I am fighting sleepiness hard. Smoothies with a shot of espresso are a great alternative I have learned from the doctors. I refrain from drinking any caffeinated beverages during the second half of my shift, that way I can go straight to bed when I get home after my shift. I do not pass Go; I do not collect $200; I do not even have breakfast! I immediately go to bed.
There are a couple of ways I trick my body into being able to sleep 6-8 hours during the day. I always have my phone on silent without any vibration. All of the email/text/call notifications would disturb me so I just shut them off. If the sun is out when I am driving home I tend to wear sunglasses so my body does not react to the sunlight and that way I can stay relatively sleepy. Then I wear an eye mask when I am sleeping to block the sun from peeking through my blinds. Most nurses invest in black out curtains but since I am a not a permanent night shifter, I just stick to my face mask.
Switching back to staying awake during the day on my off days is not too hard. I will either take a 4-hour nap when I get off and then stay awake until it is night time or I will binge sleep and sleep all day and then all night (sleeping 18 hours straight is my record)!
So you would think that I have night shift down to a science. But like I said, there is no right way to work the graveyard shift. I still struggle quite a bit. For the most part, I am always tired no matter how much sleep I get. I have had to take Tylenol PM just to get sleep. Some days, working night shift depresses me because I feel like when the rest of the world is sleeping, I am awake. That will definitely make you feel lonely. But all of my loved ones have been very supportive and encouraging because I know it will not last and it is just temporary. But until then, I will keep using my tactics to concur this vamp life!