Help needed for coping with crazy shifts at work.
September 14, 2004 2:24 PM   Subscribe

I've been transferred to a "weekend grave" shift, and now I don't know when to eat, sleep, or stay awake. A few more details inside.

Basically, I work from about 9:00pm to 10:30am on Friday and Saturday nights. I also have to (generally) work day shifts on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Has anyone else worked odd shift work like this before? Do you have any tricks for helping my body and my brain adjust to these crazy back-and-forth hours?
posted by kamikazegopher to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
With my body's crappy way of trying to stay "in-synch" with the world's time, here's what I would do.

Sleep time choice #1:

Sunday: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm (massive undersleep -- don't plan anything this day -- keep tylenol handy)
Monday: 6:00 am - 12:00 pm (undersleep - another crappy day)
Tuesday: 2:00 am - 11:00 pm (oversleep)
Wednesday: 3:00 am - 9:00 am (undersleep)
Thursday: 1:00 am - 9:00 am (regular sleep)
Friday: 4:00 am - 2:00 pm (oversleep)
Saturday: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm (regular sleep)

Choice #2:

Tuesday - Thursday: 1:00 am - 9:00 am (regular sleeping)
Friday: NO SLEEP (better hope that night job isn't tough)
Saturday: 11:00 am - 8:30 pm (oversleep - have the tylenol handy)
Sunday: 10 pm to...
Monday: ... 10 am

BTW: Use coated pills if you need them weekly to protect your stomach lining. I get massive headaches when I have to follow schedules like that. If you need to use the pills three days in a row, switch from ASA to Ibuprofen to prevent a rebound headache the next day.

But that's just me. I would follow schedules like this during exam week at college. Nothing beats 12 hours of cramming and then STRAIGHT into the exam, no rest. OH YEAH. :-D

Whatever you do, you'll have to make it a routine or you'll just end up totally screwed. In fact, the stress your body will go through doing this all the time will leave you screwed, so here's my advice:

Choose one job and stick with it.
posted by shepd at 3:24 PM on September 14, 2004

I did something similar minus the day shifts, although I sort of flipped my days and nights during the week.

I worked Saturday night through Wednesday morning, from 10PM to 9AM and then got off at 2 Wednesday morning.

Melatonin was helpful, and so were blackout shades.

I had a lot of trouble with eating, actually--it took my body a while to catch up in that respect, and I ate hardly anything for months. My, I was thin. If I were doing it again, I'd be much more vigilant about eating properly.

You might have to experiment with what's best for you, but I know most people have certain chunks of time that constitute an effective amount of sleep for them, and it varies depending on your own sleep cycle length. Mine's three hours, so I need to sleep in multiples of three hours or I'm fubared. There's a little learning curve, figuring out how much you can sleep or when you can't so that you can get through your day without feeling awful.
posted by padraigin at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2004

If it's any help, common wisdom is that some people adjust to 3rd shift, others do not adjust no matter how long they work it. I was the latter for 9 months, during which time I lived primarily on coffee and donuts supplemented with milk for protein and calcium while at work, and occasionally the greasy spoon special (TWO EGGS! TOAST! BOTTOMLESS COFFEE! AND A WAITRESS WHO CALLS YOU 'HONEY'!) in the morning.

I also fell asleep regularly at work between 5 and 6 in the a.m., the toughest hours, and I read Tai Pan and Noble House in one week flat.

Good luck!
posted by Shane at 8:01 PM on September 14, 2004

I work four nights a week now, but for about two years I worked one day (Thursday) and three nights (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) a week. On the days that I had off, it was pretty easy for me to get adjusted to a "normal" or daytime schedule. After I worked during the day on Thursday, I would stay up as late as I could, preferably until at least 5am Friday, and then I would sleep for most of the day on Friday so that I would be prepared to work all night. Ditto for Saturday and Sunday. I think the younger you are, the easier this type of schedule is to maintain.

As for the eating part, I still haven't really figured that out. Good luck to you.
posted by mokujin at 2:45 AM on September 15, 2004

Thanks for your help. I'm taking all advice and trying to come up with an intelligent routine. I'd love to give up the day shifts. Unfortunately it's just one job with really screwed up hours (Yay for 24/7 manufacturing!). In the meantime, padraigin, my I'm getting thin, too. I've been drinking Slim-fast and Ensure type drinks just to get some nutrition in my body. We'll see how it goes. Thanks again!
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:47 PM on September 15, 2004

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