Some people love them, some people hate them. Nights never leave anybody unmoved. Crazy first waves, AOGs, crew members who call at their reporting time to say they are sick. A lot of undesirable things can happen when working on a night shift.
With these pieces of advice, you will be prepared to tackle those night shifts!
Tips & Tricks
Avoid caffeine & alcohol
Yes, this one is obvious but difficult. Avoid caffeine in the 6 hours before bedtime. I know it helps a lot. Stimulants are a false friend. Eating fruit is always the healthiest stimulant. Eat an apple. If you don’t like apples, eat watermelon. Don’t kid around, everybody loves watermelon.
Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it causes a drop in sleep quality and disturbs the REM-sleep.
This one is easy even if you are not thirsty. Drink until it hurts, just kidding, drink regularly.
When you are working during the night, meals are not distributed normally. When you are having breakfast, daylight people are having lunch. People working night shifts have a 29 percent increased risk of becoming overweight.
The essential thing to avoid this is to dedicate 10 more minutes in your kitchen to prepare something to take with you. Avoid eating in bars or cafeterias or getting a quick sandwich.
If you are not eating well, a big part of the jigsaw is missing. Use your common sense, and try to eat enough fruit (in between the main meals). If you are hungry at 4 am, some yogurt is always a good option.
People on rotating shifts: this is for you. You are forcing yourself to change regularly at what time you go to sleep, at what time you eat and even at what time you go to the toilet.
For the first two things, you can follow what I call “the ladder strategy”.
It is based on making transitions before your shifts change. So you will switch softly from morning shifts to afternoon shifts or night shifts, without feeling that much side effects. For example, the day before a night shift you should try to stay awake till late. So the day after, it won’t be that though. This way, it’s not traumatic to become a vampire.
Know your body
Physical tolerance differs between individuals. Independently of this fact, the ability to know yourself can make the difference. With time, you will find which habits work better for you.
Prepare yourself for some downtime. I always bring a book. Avoid the bright lights from a TV and your mobile devices. These will trick your brain into thinking it’s bright daylight, slowing down the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
Prepare for bedtime
Try and relax. Disconnect from your electronic devices, from everything, and make the room super dark and cool.
Now breathe in, breathe out and let yourself fall gently to sleep.