Day shift versus night shift: FIGHT!
November 25, 2007 2:54 AM   Subscribe

Which would be better for someone in my situation, day shift or night shift?

The situation: I will be finished with graduate school in approximately 2 weeks. I am attempting to find a professional job. I have one interview lined up at the moment and will hopefully have more calls coming in soon. My job currently operates on a day/night shift schedule.

Details on the schedule: Both shifts have different start times every day (for example, this week my start times are: 7pm, 5am, 6pm, 9am, and 8am). Both shifts are unpredictable in terms of shift length (ranging from 3-12 hours). Day shift starts between 5am-10am. Night shifts start between 5pm-11pm.

The problem: I'm getting tired of the constant backing and forthing (as you can tell from my start times for this week) due to my other job (which I have since left) and school (which is going to be over really soon). My sleep schedule is completely dicked and I'm a cranky mofo all the time.

The question: Which shift should I stick with?

If I take day shift, I'll have a hard time scheduling interviews. (I sometimes have one day off a week, but that's not a guarantee and I don't know what day it will be. I've attempted to get the scheduler to just pick one day and stick with it, but somehow I feel like that is possibly not going to work for interviewing purposes.) If I take night shift, I'll have my days free, but I've heard that this shift is especially hard on people.

Publicly available research/data is always appreciated, along with personal anecdotes.
posted by sperose to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personal anecdotes: When I was a young buck I did shift work - sometimes straight days, sometimes nights, other times swing shifts (1st/2nd/3rd in one week). The absolute worst for me was the swing shift, as my body could never get used to one sleep pattern. The second "better" was nights, as I would eventually get used to this, except for my days off when I would be tempted to have normal hours so I could party with my friends. The best was day shift, even though a 7 a.m. start meant I couldn't have much of a late night social life if I wanted to keep my job.

Since it sounds your decision includes a desire to have time for job interviews, I'd go for days. Remember, the goal is for you to have a successful job interview, and that includes being mentally sharp. I'd suspect this could be a challenge if you were working nights.

You don't mention what you do for a living now, but unless you are working in life or death situations, there shouldn't be a major problem scheduling time off a few days in advance. That, and prospective employers are generally sensitive to your current work situation and will be flexible as well.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:06 AM on November 25, 2007

I think under the circumstances the night shifts would be preferable. You can aim to schedule your interviews in the afternoons, morning for you, so you'll be fresh for those.

Anything is better than mixed shifts, as far as your body is concerned.

The problem with most jobs with that kind of shift work is that they don't tend to offer much flexibility with days off. You take what you're given, or they find someone else who will.

Option 3: You don't say if you're making particularly good money at this job, but this time of year is a good one to give up the random shiftwork and get an evening/night job. If you can't replace the pay, then that's probably not an option, but since you're a short-timer anyway it could work out well for you. Generally your education would rule you out for those jobs, but at the holiday season it may not matter.

I worked 2nd shift (3-midnight) for several years at the beginning of my career, and my body was fine with it as long as I didn't try to change things around very much.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:10 AM on November 25, 2007

Re: Publicly available research and date. I'd be concerned about the possiblilty of developing shift work sleep disorder.

Free info can be found on pubmed (abstracts and some papers) and medscape. Sorry I tried to put a link and am having problems.

I would be aware of the risk, and if you notice problems in developing excessive sleepiness working a night schedule, etc., then see a doctor and consider a different schedule.

For the moment, the night shift seems most logical for interviews. Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2007

I'd work during the day and focus on getting days off when necessary for interviewing.

On paper, it seems like 12 hours in the day or 12 hours at night should be basically the same thing as long as you're not having to go back and forth between them. But night shifts can be tough on a lot of people. If you think it'd be tough on you, sleep at night so you can be sharp for the interviews.
posted by jragon at 7:59 AM on November 25, 2007

Definitely backing the day shift side of the argument. I spent a year working night shifts; it's hell. It's hell on wheels.

I am nominally a night person - I tend to go to bed late, need ~6 hours of sleep per day, and am in reasonably good shape. I have a fast metabolism, and rarely find myself groggy. Working the night shift "should" have been fine for me, given all of that.

Instead, I spent 12 months barely feeling human, always being tired, and never feeling like I was part of the same community as the people around me. We're not built to be awake all night - it fiercely distorts your internal sense of time, and is generally unpleasant.
posted by ellF at 8:25 AM on November 25, 2007

Never take night shift work if you can avoid it. Studies have shown higher rates of car accidents, mental illness, and all-causes death in night shift workers.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:28 AM on November 25, 2007

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