People who work in all different industries may find themselves working while the rest of the world is sleeping. While it may be necessary and/or helpful for your career, the overnight shift can be brutal on your health and your personal life.
Fortunately, there are some steps to take in order to ensure that working while the moon is out isn’t so bad.
Invest in blackout curtains
When I first started working overnights, I didn’t think not having blackout curtains would be a big deal. So many people suggested I buy some, but I thought, “I nap during the day all the time, I can sleep with the sun up no problem.” Boy, was I wrong. I was falling asleep in the morning while it was still dark out but then found myself waking up as the rising sun’s light peeked into my room. It’s your body’s natural response to daylight! I didn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time, which was frustrating. So I finally bought a set of blackout curtains on Amazon and they have been a game-changer. It always feels like night time in my room, and now my room is always cozy and dark, even at noon. If you don't want to buy curtains, a good sleep mask could also probably do the trick.
Make your bedroom a phone-free zone
Honestly, this is something everyone should abide by, but it’s 2019 -- I get it. However, my bedtime phone usage really became a problem once I shifted to working overnight. As I am heading to bed, the world is waking up and as a result my social media and inboxes quickly become flooded as I am trying to wind down. I find myself getting hooked on whatever the breaking news story of the morning is and then poof! An hour has gone by and I’m now wide awake endlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed. To help curb this bad habit, it’s important to put your phone outside of arm’s reach before hopping into bed. I’ve attempted (although sometimes unsuccessfully) to charge my phone on the other side of my room and set my alarm really loudly. This way, I don’t use my phone as I drift off to sleep and I’m also forced to get up out of bed to turn my alarm off.
Use essential oils
There’s an essential oil for pretty much every mood or ailment. Lavender is a popular oil to help with sleep. My favorite combination is lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint and rosemary. I discovered this mix when researching essential oils to get rid of headaches, but found that it puts me to sleep very quickly. I just mix the blend with some water in my diffuser and let the sweet smells fill my room. I also use an essential oil “calm” spray made with chamomile; you can make your own spray or buy one.
Exercise regularly & follow a regimented diet
It’s important to follow a strict routine when working overnights. Because you're fighting your body’s natural rhythm, it’s easy to feel out of sorts often. By setting a schedule for yourself, it helps you adjust to and maintain this harsh schedule. Besides sleep, it’s very important to stay healthy by exercising and eating right. Set a time to get in some exercise every day, even if it’s a short work out video or a walk around the block. Moving my body helps me feel energized and wakes me up, so I like to work out in the evening before I head into work.
Don’t fall victim to the vending machines in the middle of the night or takeout when your shift is over. Meal prepping is a good way to make sure you are eating proper meals without having to cook every night. I also try to eat at the same time every day. I have my “breakfast” at 3 p.m., my “lunch” around 9 p.m. and then bring healthy snacks like fruit, oatmeal and yogurt to have while at work. I sometimes make eggs and toast when I get home from work in the morning. By doing this, I’ve trained my body to adjust to this new normal because I’m not waking up from hunger during my sleep.
Schedule social events in advance
Loneliness can be pretty detrimental to your health. So if you’re working a shift that lacks social interaction during work and prevents you from socializing often outside of work, you need to be proactive about it. Schedule time to be with family and friends on your days off a week or so in advance. That way, you can plan your sleep that day accordingly. Carving out time to spend with loved ones can help you look forward to something, as well as boost your mood and energy levels. I personally like to meet friends for dinner before my shift begins at 10 p.m. That way, my night is off to a good start.