and all that follows…

Having spent the first three months unemployed after moving to this country, getting into the Night Shift, for me, was not that difficult.  I was already used to staying awake until 4am-5am, typing up fiction to my heart’s content or proofreading stories for like-minded writers, so when my time to be employed again finally came, the prospect of working at night didn’t seem to phase me.  There was only so much writing you could do, and with your partner made freshly redundant, it clearly made sense to take the job on.

My shift is currently 10pm-6.30am, Sunday night to Friday morning.  I wake up in time for shows such as Masterchef, Criminal Minds, and Mr Bean, and consume evening meals like everyone else instead of toast and cereal.  When I leave the apartment, the moon is overhead and I can tell if it will rain just from sniffing the air.  For safety’s sake, my partner walks me to the bus stop, kisses me “goodnight”, then opens the door in the mornings when I buzz the apartment.

All in all, no different from a day job, depending on how you look at it.

~ * ~

The Three Concerns

an introduction to the night shift

1. SLEEP

If you’re not a night owl, it’s the worst possible shift; you’ll be tossing and turning for hours then constantly drowning in caffeine as soon as you hit the office.  To tackle this nocturnal challenge, I slept an average of 9 hours before every shift until my body clock gradually adjusted.  Doctors say it can take two or three months for your body to adapt to different timezones, so give it a try and see what works for you.

From observation, fellow night-stalkers tend to sleep the moment they get home in order to do things during daylight, whereas others, such as myself, try to muster as much normalcy as they can by treating their mornings like an eve on the Day Shift.  Whatever works for you!

Tips for sleeping well:

  • install thick curtains or blinds;
  • wear ear plugs and/or blindfold;
  • no caffeine 1 hour before bedtime;
  • have a warm, relaxing bath;
  • sleep at the same times;
  • set two alarms.

2. APPETITE

If your body clock is struggling, so is your stomach, and you’ll have to train it to work at times it normally wouldn’t.  To begin this process, you’ll need to build your appetite gently, starting off with small portions of breakfast foods like cereal, porridge, and yoghurt, before moving on to more complex offerings such as microwavable meals and homemade leftovers.

From experience, I found breakfast foods were the easiest to consume at lunch-time (roughly 2.30am).  As my appetite began to wake along with my body clock, I also had to supplement my breaks with dried mango, cereal bars, and biscuits to keep the hunger at bay.  Without these additional snacks, I would finish my shift feeling nauseous, which had nothing to do with the bus journey home, so it’s best to steadily consume throughout your shift.

Food I’ve seen my colleagues eat:

  • tuna and sweetcorn from the can mixed together;
  • cous-cous with Reggae Reggae sauce;
  • instant noodles or bento sushi;
  • sandwiches or buttered bread;
  • microwavable pastas and soups;
  • Pop Tarts.

3. SOCIAL LIFE

“What social life?”  Despite this common response by night-stalkers and day-walkers alike in relation to the Night Shift, it is quite possible to maintain a normal social life.

Of couse, this is marginally easier if your partner doesn’t work opposite shifts.  You avoid the whole argument over who does the cooking and housework, as well as other predicaments such as boredom, affairs, and all those problems people end up having when they’re rich, famous, and working the Night Shift.  In my case, the prospect of an opposite shift is still far away, or not getting any closer.  (My partner is presently unemployed, so their day literally revolves around me!)

It’s even easier when you don’t have relatives who call you on a weekday afternoon – the time you’re meant to be sleeping.  My mother resides overseas, and to her credit, she has only ever done this once, but once was enough, and long has it stayed in memory, that awful moment when you hear the phone ring after forgetting to put it on “silent” the evening before a hectic night at work.  It’s a small thing, yet so unforgivable.  And it’s little wonder why no one calls me.

As for meeting up friends, within or beyond the country, this has probably been my greatest challenge.  For months I was under the spell of adapting to the Night Shift and the weekends just whizzed by before I even knew it.  Being new here, I made the slight mistake of relying too heavily on my colleagues for adequate company, and when things came to a head (I may go into this later; I may not), it was down to me to seek out new friendships that had nothing to do with work.  Thus, if you’re working the Night Shift for the first time, especially if it’s your first job in a different country, make sure to concentrate on interests that will introduce new people.  Try the gym, a part-time course or attending local events.  Whatever it takes, make sure your friendship base stretches out in other directions as things can get pretty intimate on the Night Shift and you’ll run out of release if there’s no one else to talk to.

~ * ~

So is it safe to conclude how me and the Night Shift are meant to be? I don’t have children or pets, and as much as a cat would do me just fine, the landlord simply won’t allow it.  Therefore, when I say that it’s quite possible to maintain a normal social life, I mean it in every sense when referring to free-spirited twenty-somethings with no valid reason to complain.  While I’ll admit that it took me an age to get over that (the best part of ten months; please don’t laugh), I must say that the Night Shift is okay and the people aren’t any stranger than the ones on the Day Shift.  Then again…

What do you think?

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