Avidan says that he often sees nighttime workers who are struggling to stay awake during their shift. Fatigue often leads to mistakes, and many of his patients are sent to him after getting hurt or putting others in danger. He's treated a nighttime bus driver who was having too many early morning accidents and hospital workers who missed critical steps while performing diagnostic tests.
Val Barnes recently backed into a car at the end of her shift—"I didn't even see it," she says. Many night workers are diagnosed with Shift Work Disorder, a diagnosis given to anyone who cannot cope with the changes in their circadian rhythm. They experience extreme sleepiness, and often insomnia and depression as well. According to Avidan, individuals with Shift Work Disorder are three times more likely to have an accident on the job than are employees who do not work a night shift.
Even if they think they're sleeping enough during the day, they may not be getting the sleep they need. Many shift workers get off in the morning, take a one-hour nap to take the "edge" off, then wake up to make breakfast and drive the kids to school. It's like baking a cake. Instead of leaving it in for an hour, you leave it in for five minutes at a time. Well, then it's never going to bake. When shift workers take a nap and then go back to sleep later, they're not getting the restorative sleep they need to feel recovered. Accumulated sleep debt takes a toll on an individual's ability to make good decisions, let alone sharp, split-second ones required of nighttime workers in life-and-death situations.
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Major accidents like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Three Mile Island, and the meltdown at Chernobyl took place during the night shift. But being on the night shift doesn't just influence reaction times—it changes how we react in challenging situations: One study found that police officers who work the night shift are angrier and more hostile to people they pull over than are daytime officers.
For this reason, she uses a checklist to double- and triple-check the prescriptions she fills. She'll underline important information —how many pills, the dosage —to make sure that she doesn't forget it minutes later. Then there are jobs, like flying a jumbo jet or performing open heart surgery, that require the ability to multitask no matter how tired you are.
When abroad, she tries to sleep in four-hour increments whenever she would normally be sleeping at home. She says many pilots have an unspoken honor system: Speak up if you didn't get enough sleep before the flight, so that pilots can swap rest periods with one another if need be there are four in the cockpit on international runs. Linda's body slows down between 3 A. Even though he still works at night, he's working fewer hours—an 8-hour shift versus a hour shift—which gives him more time to catch up on sleep during the day.
His wife says he's much less cranky. The night shift takes a toll on marriages. Research shows that night shift workers' divorce rates are higher and they report less marital satisfaction than other workers. With one spouse getting home just as the other leaves for work, husbands and wives are less physically and emotionally available to each other. On weekends, the spouse working the night shift tries to catch up on sleep rather than taking the kids to the movies or to the park. And forget chores.
Night shift workers report putting off household duties, even those as simple as laundry, because they're fatigued. Often, one partner will begin to feel the division of labor is unequal, and resentment builds. Cornwell has found that night workers have trouble syncing their schedules with society as well, which impacts their relationships with everyone around them. They're less likely to talk to a neighbor, or go to a restaurant, museum, or sporting event. Imagine going to a concert after breakfast? Yet everyone makes trade-offs, and many parents interviewed for this story reported that they work the night shift "for their kids.
A study by Sara Raley, a professor of sociology at McDaniel College, found that parents who work the night shift have children "in their orbit" more often than parents who work days, since they tend to be home between 3 P. Tam, the nighttime pharmacist, worked nights through two pregnancies.
How to Cope With Sleep Change When on Night Shifts
For one, she makes sure that she, her husband, and their two boys eat dinner together before her shift. Still, the quality of that time is difficult to measure.
In a study of the impact of night shift work on children's behavior, researchers found that when mothers worked the night shift, their kids had elevated levels of aggressive and anxious or depressed behavior. Rachel Dunifon, a professor in the department of policy analysis and management at Cornell University who led the study, says she doesn't know why kids of night workers are more apt to struggle, but she's guessing that a lack of sleep is to blame.
If one parent in a two-parent family works nights, child care is a cinch. But it can be especially challenging for a single mother—and 46 percent of single mothers of young children in one study reported doing shift work or working weekends. The Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which caters to lower-income families, has offered overnight childcare since the mids.
At around P. Parents pick them up around A. Bryant says that one mother would pick her kids up at midnight, waking them up to get them home. Moms bring their kids to the overnight program as a last resort—they'd rather their kids sleep at the home of a family member. One mother, who worked nights as an aide to an elderly woman, was anxious about leaving her daughter to sleep in a strange classroom. She called the staffers every couple of hours to check on her.
But her daughter went to sleep easily and slept through the night. We had one mom cry with joy after she was transferred to the day shift and could move her daughter back to daycare. As for Barnes, she says she'll stay in her job as janitor for as long as it makes sense for her kids. It pays well, she says, and she gets great health benefits for her family. Still, she dreams about working days.
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Says Barnes: "I just want a normal life again. There are quiet benefits to working at night, chief among them a deeper sense of introspection. Some people enjoy working the night shift—their bodies transition to nights more easily than others', and after many years, their circadian rhythms begin to shift altogether. Even among those who wish for a daytime schedule, there are aspects of working at night that are appealing. For some, the silence is a source of comfort.
BBC One - Nightshifters
When Ramon Zayas, who has been baking every night for the last 40 years, went on vacation with his wife recently, he lay down with her to watch TV until she fell asleep. Then, he tiptoed out of bed and went out sightseeing—in the dark.
He couldn't sleep if he tried—he hasn't slept at night in four decades. Plus, he likes how quiet places are at night, how much more you notice when no one else is around.
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He'll stop to stare at the wind blowing through the trees, watch a fox trot across the road, see the way the homeless settle in for the night. He always looks for bakeries, going around back and knocking on the door to say hello.
Why the Night Shift Makes You Sleepy
Back home in Rochester, New York, Zayas says he lives in a "silent world" at night. Until his donut fryer arrives at 3 a. Val Barnes says that working in isolation gives her time to decompress. Even as she struggles to stay awake, the silence is comforting, since the rest of the world is turned off.
She can feel the air get cooler if someone opens a door on the other side of the building. Try doing a less intense workout after you get off work, such as taking a long walk or doing yoga. Sometimes you can find them in a dimly lit room, even. This is an awesome way to relax, wind-down and release stress.. On the flip side, you may find that getting a vigorous workout in the morning actually helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Some of us 3rd shifters have trouble falling asleep after work, especially in the summer when the sun is shining through our windows. Experiment with when you do your intense workouts and when you take rest days during the week.
Maybe you do a cardio workout on your first day of a stretch of night shifts, have a rest day the next and a tough workout on your last day of night shift before a few days off. Or vice versa! Adjusting your routine could play a huge role in making exercise fit into your schedule better. Like I mentioned, bike, run or walk right out of your house. Or get a cheap set of dumbbells, kettle bells or a yoga mat.