Becoming Nocturnal: Ideas for Surviving on Graveyard Shift
Part One: Some Thoughts on Caffeine
I’ve been working overnights as my primary shift for the past two and a half years. Several times I’ve googled how to adjust and function well and usually don’t find much helpful info, so I thought I’d share here some things I’ve gleaned on my own. I don’t necessarily advise what I have found to work for me. It just works for me, and I share it in hopes that someone else might be able to succeed in the rather challenging transition to being “nocturnal” as I like to call it.
First of all, before I went to this shift, when I was still trying to make up my mind if it was right for me, or even possible, a lot of people indicated that it was easier for a “night person” to adjust to graveyard shift than it was for a “morning person.” I am without a doubt a morning person. I love morning. I always feel better after waking up than I do before I go to bed. I wake up quick and if I have any energy, it will be in the morning. (I struggle with energy level—always have. But finding help for that will come in another blog post.)
So I wondered if I could adjust. But the truth is, when you work nights, you are awake during the morning. And I have found that I still enjoy morning, even when I am approaching it from the other end, if you know what I mean.
So Idea Number One is, if you can, when sunrise rolls around, see if you can take a break and step outside for a breath of fresh air and a infusion of birdsongs. If you are busy right then, maybe you can look out a window and take a deep breath and say, “Good Morning, Lord!”
That said, my biggest challenge has been staying awake with a nice attitude and then getting enough sleep during the day. I’m sure this is what’s hard for everyone who works graveyard, and of course the first solution to come to mind is….caffeine.
Yes, I cannot tell a lie. I could not work this shift without caffeine. I have read labels on a lot of diet sodas and coffees as well as those energy drops and packets you can add to water and here are my conclusions, based on how I feel, how much makes my heart start palpitating, what gives me a headache or relieves it, etc., etc.
I try to go for….
Drinks sweetened with sucralose rather than aspartame. Acelsulfame K and stevia seem OK too. I don’t do sugar, mainly for the calories, but also I feel like it has an aftertaste. But though I do drink diet Coke and diet Mountain Dew from time to time and they are sweetened with aspartame, I seem to feel better if at least some of my overnight drinks don’t contain aspartame. Hence….
Please don’t rail on me, but I love diet Monsters. I do try to limit them to no more than two 12-ounce cans per 24 hour period, though, just because they have such a bad reputation. To be honest, I think the bad reputation is part of their advertising campaign. That “tough” persona helps them sell to “tough” kids or whoever. (I don’t recommend them for kids, though! Oh, no!) I’ve researched amounts of caffeine, types of sweeteners, etc., in various drinks and have come to the conclusion that there is more caffeine in brewed coffee, ounce for ounce, than in a Monster. Also, the sweetener is sucralose—no aspartame. In addition, there are B vitamins and amino acids that augment the caffeine, and some of the caffeine itself is from guarana, a natural herb.
So after a lot of research and label reading, I have allowed myself to drink Monsters. I have read labels, etc., on other brands of energy drinks, and none of them feel as safe to me. But the Monsters do. If I am wrong about this, may God reveal it to me before I do myself too much damage! I like to pour it over ice and sip it through a straw to dilute it and make it last longer. Sometimes I alternate caffeine drinks with water.
I have worked with maybe one or two people who can do an overnight without any caffeine, but they are rare. Most people who adapt well to nights have their favorite drink. One girl uses that Pure Leaf tea in the bottles. One girl brings a two-liter of diet Pepsi or Dr. Pepper with her. One girl got one of those little 5-Hour Energy bottles and swigged tiny sips while snacking on a little pile of candy. Some put on a pot of coffee, of course.
I would like to experiment with green tea, but so far I can’t get past the taste. Yuck!