Author Topic: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?  (Read 678 times)

Tris Prior

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Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« on: May 15, 2018, 01:17:46 PM »
I found out that it's very likely that, in a couple months, I'm going to have to work overnight shifts at my usually 9-5 job. I'm not sure for how long, but probably not longer than a week or two, and then it'll be back to the regular schedule.

The specific circumstances that require this come up now and then in my industry. I last had to do it around 8 years ago and was WRECKED for a long time afterwards. I never could get adjusted to sleeping during the day and was exhausted all the time. And then, once I went back to days, I had to reset myself all over again.

Now I'm 10 years older and have a lot of problems with insomnia. I have serious doubts that I'll be able to convince my body to sleep on a new schedule, and I really don't function well on little sleep.

I'm thinking that maybe the first day I can use the jetlag trick that worked when I recently went to Europe - the first night, just stay up until the clock says it is "bedtime," at which point I was sleep deprived but did OK at falling asleep at a "right" time according to the clock. But that was a vacation, not something requiring mental acuity or deadline-meeting of any sort. And after the first day.... I'm at a loss.

Also considered melatonin, but I hear a side-effect is very vivid dreams and that's one of my main causes of insomnia already (I wake up from a vivid bad dream and cannot get back to sleep, several times per night.) I'm wary of prescription sleep aids as, historically, they make me stupid and slow and this is going to be time sensitive high pressure work.

Has anyone had to temporarily work a shift opposite from your regular one? Is there anything that helped you sleep enough so that you could function? Saying no to the change of schedule isn't an option.

I'm pissed that this is going to happen in the middle of our very brief summer.

etselec

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2018, 03:11:06 PM »
Everyone is different, but often-helpful things include:
  • Make your bedroom pitch dark. Get blackout curtains, or just tape over all the windows in your bedroom with heavy paper/fabric.
  • Get a full-spectrum sun lamp and use it to wake up before work. If your job function allows for it, try to be in brightly lit environs as much as possible during your night shifts. Then once you're home/trying to sleep, avoid bright lights/screen time/etc.
  • Time your caffeine intake to your fake "day" you're trying to create — e.g. drink coffee before work, but not later on during your shift.
  • Stay as consistent as possible. Especially since it's only for a week or two — resist the urge to shift your schedule back on days when you're not working. Keep the same sleep/wake hours.

Basically, you know your body is bad at this, so your job is to do everything you can to trick your body into thinking it's not happening. If you find you really, really, really can't make it work — especially if there are serious safety concerns, like if part of your work involves operating heavy machinery — the next step might be to talk to your doctor about getting documentation of your sleep issues, such that not working night shifts would be a "reasonable accommodation" for a medical problem.

Good luck!

May2030

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2018, 05:09:51 PM »
I swap between 12 hour days and nights. In addition to the above I try to make sure the room is cool. Normally your body temp drops before you go to sleep so being cool stimulates sleep.

I use a 15 minute meditation recording when I first get into bed and am now trained to fall asleep when it plays.
Problem I have is I wake up after four hours or so. I get up have a light breakfast no caffeine and go back to bed and can usually sleep.
No matter if I sleep well or not  always have a nap before going to work. Not always if you have to travel far.

Still feel like crap but it all helps.

Tris Prior

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2018, 05:51:21 PM »
Everyone is different, but often-helpful things include:
  • Make your bedroom pitch dark. Get blackout curtains, or just tape over all the windows in your bedroom with heavy paper/fabric.
  • Get a full-spectrum sun lamp and use it to wake up before work. If your job function allows for it, try to be in brightly lit environs as much as possible during your night shifts. Then once you're home/trying to sleep, avoid bright lights/screen time/etc.
  • Time your caffeine intake to your fake "day" you're trying to create — e.g. drink coffee before work, but not later on during your shift.
  • Stay as consistent as possible. Especially since it's only for a week or two — resist the urge to shift your schedule back on days when you're not working. Keep the same sleep/wake hours.

Basically, you know your body is bad at this, so your job is to do everything you can to trick your body into thinking it's not happening. If you find you really, really, really can't make it work — especially if there are serious safety concerns, like if part of your work involves operating heavy machinery — the next step might be to talk to your doctor about getting documentation of your sleep issues, such that not working night shifts would be a "reasonable accommodation" for a medical problem.

That all makes sense, though I admit I'm crabby at the thought of having to spend money on stuff to black out the windows and a daylight lamp just so I can successfully fuck with my body clock because my employer says I have to.

I'm trying to get my head around other stuff besides sleep, too - like, when do I exercise (currently in the evenings)? When do I eat - according to the clock whether hungry or not in order to keep my energy up, as I did while traveling and jetlagged, or wait until I'm hungry which could be at weird times and interfere with sleep? Maybe I can get my partner to handle errands if I'm not up for running errands in the morning when (? I assume? I don't know the exact hours involved yet) I will be off work. I'll probably have to skip my weekly therapy session until this is over as it would fall in the middle of my new "night" and is near work and not home. Ugh, what a pain in the ass.

Yeah, there's a whole psychological aspect to this too, of course. I have no idea how long it will last - it lasts until some Grand High Lama decides that the work's done, basically. Having to maintain the schedule on weekends, and thus not getting to spend time with my partner (or sleep with him - yes, actual sleep, neither of us sleeps well alone) or friends is going to suck and I'm really resentful of it. I'm hoping that it doesn't coincide with a planned vacation that's already approved - my manager won't make me cancel the trip but if I'm working overnights right up until the trip, that's going to suck.

No safety concerns, no heavy machinery, I won't literally kill someone; I'm a cube jockey. I don't have a car, take public transport to work..... shit, it just occurred to me that the train I need might not be running when I need to arrive at work. Oh, FFS.

I swap between 12 hour days and nights. In addition to the above I try to make sure the room is cool. Normally your body temp drops before you go to sleep so being cool stimulates sleep.

Yeah, this is gonna be in high summer and I'm perimenopausal. Welp, guess I'll be unmustachian and turn on the AC! (Can I bill my company for the higher electricity cost?! haha.)

I might actually try some sort of meditation recording even when on a normal schedule - being "trained" to fall asleep when hearing something sounds amazing, honestly.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2018, 06:01:54 PM »
I found this post hugely helpful when I went on nights: https://nomnompaleo.com/post/55156756199/surviving-the-night-shift

(That being said, being on nights made me incredibly sick. But it took a few months to get there!)
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Physicsteacher

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2018, 07:21:28 PM »
Do you have some nice heavy blankets or quilts you could tack up as temporary blackout curtains? An eye mask generally helps some, but not as much as getting the room very dark. I'd suggest trying to transition to a dim environment a couple of hours before bedtime. Put F.lux or a similar app on your computer and other devices to cut back on the amount of blue light emitted if you are going to need to use them during this time frame. Since blue light on your retinas suppresses your body's natural melatonin production, you might consider getting a pair of orange safety goggles (like these) to wear before bed as well if falling asleep turns out to be a major problem.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2018, 08:25:41 PM »
Decide what you want to be your nighttime, first or second shift.  To me first shift is 7 am to 3 pm, second shift is 3 pm to 11 pm and third shift is 11 pm to 7 am.  So, assuming you are working 11 pm to 7 am you have two choices.  You can stay awake when you get home and then sleep second but then you won't be seeing you family and friends much.  Since most people work 1st shift you are probably better off sleeping immediately after work and being awake second shift.  This should keep it from cutting into your social life too much.  It should also give you some time to schedule your therapy or any other medical appt you need to keep.

I worked a decent number of 3rd shifts in a prior job but it was all overtime. Usually I worked second and third in the same night, would sleep first, and go back for second the next night.  I found the switch a lot easier when I was sleeping 3rd or 1st than the times I tried to sleep 2nd.

As for meals, you are basically just swapping your whole schedule as if you were traveling.  Can you eat at work? I could so I would eat dinner halfway through my 3rd shift, around 3 am.  Go home and straight to bed. Get up, eat breakfast.  See friends and family.  If your partner works "normal" hours you can eat your lunch when he eats his dinner.  You can also eat Mediterranean style where your biggest meal is your lunch (his dinner time but you two could eat the same thing) and your dinner is lunch sized (during your shift).

red_pill

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2018, 08:54:22 PM »
Cheapest way to blackout a window is with tinfoil. It’s what they use in the Arctic in the summer when the sun doesn’t go down.   You could also get the tinfoil lined bubble wrap radiant barrier (available at any hardware store). It’s more expensive but will also keep some heat out and since it is a more rigid product you could cut it to size and then pop it in and out as needed.

I can confirm melatonin can give you crazy vivid dreams.  I had the most ghoulish macabre nightmares when I was taking it to help me sleep only to find out it was part of the problem.

Linda_Norway

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2018, 04:32:52 AM »

No safety concerns, no heavy machinery, I won't literally kill someone; I'm a cube jockey. I don't have a car, take public transport to work..... shit, it just occurred to me that the train I need might not be running when I need to arrive at work. Oh, FFS.

I swap between 12 hour days and nights. In addition to the above I try to make sure the room is cool. Normally your body temp drops before you go to sleep so being cool stimulates sleep.

Yeah, this is gonna be in high summer and I'm perimenopausal. Welp, guess I'll be unmustachian and turn on the AC! (Can I bill my company for the higher electricity cost?! haha.)


Yes, I would start billing the company, or at least ask for it. They are forcing you to work for a couple of weeks or more on a very demanding schedule that you haven't planned for. You can tell them that you cannot organize transport at night. Maybe your boss can pay for a taxi? As you will be too tired to drive in a responsible way. Or perhaps pay for a hotel room close to work. Some hotels have very heavy curtains that block out light.

Otherwise I would take the route of sick leave on doctor's advise.

If you think this will occur more often, consider to change jobs.

You aren't organized in a union?

Tom Bri

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2018, 07:03:46 AM »
I work nights but often shift back and forth on my days off.
I exercise right before bed. This is supposed to be bad, but it works for me. Mostly stretching but some light cardio and muscle work, about 15 minutes worth. I find I wake up less creaky if I have done this, and it never seems to hurt sleep.

Put a black tee-shirt across my eyes to block more light than the curtains do.

Melatonin occasionally for those days I absolutely have to get to sleep on a schedule. Yes, it gives vivid dreams, but if the other option is no sleep...

My trick for falling asleep fast is to think about the same thing every time I go to bed. No thinking about the day past or the day ahead. No planning. No reviewing events and gaming how you should have handled them better. No replaying conversations in your head. Give it all up and drift in a nice fantasy. After years of doing this I have an entire fantasy world built up, and I imagine various parts of it depending on whim as I lay in bed. Usually asleep within minutes. Before I learned this technique, I used to lie abed for hours.

Tris Prior

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2018, 08:34:35 AM »
This is all such great information, thank you all! I figured that some folks here might've had this experience.

Yes, I can eat at work. No, we're not unionized; that's uncommon in my field. There is nothing I can do to get out of this, as far as I know. My manager also suffers from major insomnia and he's going to be doing it - so I feel like I can't tell him I don't want to as he'll be struggling with the same thing, you know?

Didn't think of tinfoil - that's probably my cheapest bet.

I can confirm melatonin can give you crazy vivid dreams.  I had the most ghoulish macabre nightmares when I was taking it to help me sleep only to find out it was part of the problem.

Yeah, see, I have those dreams WITHOUT melatonin! It's a main reason why I can't sleep through the night. No thanks.

sparkytheop

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2018, 10:28:06 AM »
I work a rotating 12 hour shift, and much prefer night shifts because I sleep so much better (I admit I'm likely an outlier).

Definitely darken the room, tinfoil should work great since it is short term. 

If you have a basement (with good fire-escape options if you're safety minded), set up a bed down there (my bedroom is in the basement because it is much darker and cooler than anywhere else in the house).

Treat your night like it's a day.  Drink coffee in your "morning".  Eat breakfast before work if that's what you usually do.  Pack a lunch, eat dinner when you get home (or while still at work).

I've never used a lamp, but ask if your work will buy one (it will save you the money and maybe it can be "checked out" by those who have to do this shift when required).  I know my work would not do this, but the night shifts are part of my regular schedule, so I signed up for it when I chose this career.

Whatever your usual bedtime routine is, follow it as closely as you can.  Someone else mentioned thinking of the same thing whenever you are trying to fall asleep.  I have a similar method (it used to take me hours to sleep, but now I can usually fall asleep in minutes.)  What I do is visualize every letter of the alphabet.  It has to be "seared" to my eyelids, not just "think of the letter 'a'", but I have to conjure up the letter "a".  I cannot move on to the next letter until the current one is completely formed.  It's dumb, but it works.  Usually I'm asleep before I get to "d".  Some nights I have to go through the entire alphabet at least once.  If I go through it twice, I know I'm not going to get to sleep anytime soon, so I might get up and do some laundry or something.  The important thing for me is to focus completely on the letter and not let any other thoughts interrupt (I have had some hellish times that would have kept me up with worry, dread, whatever, for hours before discovering this).  My pharmacist told me he tries to "see" a completely blank sheet.  If anything shows up he has to "sweep" it away and try to keep it clear.  Hopefully you have something that will work for you.  It might take a while to make it work for you, but if you start now, it will be there when you go to the nights.

shelbyautumn

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2018, 10:37:36 AM »
Yeah, see, I have those dreams WITHOUT melatonin! It's a main reason why I can't sleep through the night. No thanks.

Have you tried Zzzquil? It's pretty much a double dose of Benadryl.

Tom Bri

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2018, 01:12:10 PM »
Yeah, see, I have those dreams WITHOUT melatonin! It's a main reason why I can't sleep through the night. No thanks.

Have you tried Zzzquil? It's pretty much a double dose of Benadryl.

I give Benadryl a lot at work (night shift nurse) to help people sleep. Seems to work better than most other drugs. One that helps older people is Tylenol. If you have half-forgotten aches and pains, a little Tylenol at bedtime really seems to help.

carolina822

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Re: Working overnight shift short term - how to get sleep?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2018, 11:15:21 AM »
I teach online a couple of nights a week until midnight, and struggle with being too amped up to go to sleep right after class. (I'm a night owl anyway, this just exacerbates it.) One thing I have found that helps is about a half hour before I am planning to be in bed, mix a tablespoon of honey and a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in some warm water and drink it. It seems to work better on an empty stomach. It may be purely a placebo, but it does more for me than melatonin.