Night Shift…no more.

imageWho’s stayed up late at night reading a book?

Come on, raise your hands. You know as avid readers we’ve all done it. Some of us on a more regular basis than others, I bet! πŸ™‚ So, now you’ve been up most, if not all night. You’re exhausted. You’ve got what we call “book hangover”.

Now, imagine doing this 3-4 times in a week. Often in a row. Feel tired?

Now, imagine doing this 3-4 times a week, 50 out of 52 weeks in a year. Exhuasted?

Now, imagine doing this 3-4 times a week, 50 weeks a year for 25 years. Welcome to the world of a night shift nurse!

Now imagine all that and being expected to function on a high level of expertise with people’s lives and futures in your hands. A little daunting, huh?

Did you know that, according to WebMD.com, “In the U.S., about 8.6 million people perform shift work, whether they have a night job or rotate shifts during the week.” The article also goes on to say, “Experts say that shift work could have a serious impact on our health in at least two ways. Some of it may have to do with the lifestyle that shift work encourages. The rest has to do with our biology.”

This causes sleep disorders and actual increase in disease risks for things like stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

Sigh.

So, for both mental health and physical reasons, I made the decision to come off nights.

Now, this left me with two options. Go to working day shift at the hospital. Which as you know from the Bandit Newsletter this month, I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. Nope. Not going to happen. No amount of caffeine would ever make it work for me. Co-workers and doctors would find themselves in jeopardy if I had to be awake and functioning by 0530 every day. Shoot me now!

Luckily for me, (and numerous peppy morning people), Β my writing career had taken off enough that I could finally afford to take time away from nursing completely to focus on writing. (Yea!!)

Now that I’m home every night, Β sleeping at night on a regular basis would be heavenly, right?new-moon-energetics-energy-medicine1

Well, not exactly. See, I knew that I’d trained myself to sleep 5-7 hours every day after I worked a shift. A nap on every day off helped me keep what I called “a modified night shift” schedule at home. According to medical research, that was actually better for night shift workers than trying to switch back and forth. Apparently, I figured this out organically before anyone even started studying the cause and affects of shift work on workers.

So, I told Jazzman…”I’m going to work my way to going to be between 10 pm and midnight every night.” This was to help get my hormones and biorhythms back in sinc.

How’s it working?

Wellllllllllll, most nights it’s between 11 pm and 1 am. Not too bad. I discovered that if I go to bed before 10:30, my brain fires on at 4 am in complete “GO!” mode, but fizzles out by 9 am and then screws up my whole day/night cycle for the next day. (Remember that trained to sleep 6 hours thingy above!) And if I get to watching a movie or started on a good book…then I’m up all night, and again blow the whole day/night cycle again.

So here are my rules for getting to bed:

1. No new books started after 9 pm.

2. No starting movies after 11 pm.

3. Afternoon naps may only be 90 minutes long. (Long nap…up later.)

4. Nothing sweet after 10 pm, including fruit

5. Exercise in some form 3-4 times a week, (walking, swimming, aerobics)

I also take my vitamin and magnesium pills at bedtime. Vitamins because I’m old and need them. Magnesium to help prevent leg cramps, indigestion and they make me sleepy.

Added benefit to all this? I seem to be getting more writing done during daylight hours!! YEA!!

So, how about you? Any tricks for getting to sleep at a descent hour? Tricks to staying asleep? Do you limit your reading so you don’t get book hangovers often? What do you to get over a late night book binge?

 

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Comments

29 Comments

  • Jane says:

    Hello Suz,
    I’m definitely a night owl. I have trouble falling asleep even when I’m very tired. It seems as if my mind can’t relax and it takes a while for me to get into a deep sleep. I’ve stopped watching TV in bed, but I still read on my Kindle.

    • Ah, Jane. That’s my mom’s problem. She says she can’t stop thinking enough to go to sleep.

      Once I’m in bed I usually fall right asleep… benefit of working nights. You go to sleep quickly. My problem is getting IN bed at a reasonable hour. Do you find reading your Kindle helps relax you or keep you up?

    • Caren Crane says:

      Jane, the GR will not help you sleep. Matter of fact, I have never seen him nap for more than 10 minutes. I hope he didn’t start crowning at the crack of dawn!

  • ki pha says:

    Yup, night owl here. It’s not easy for me to fall asleep at night but I find that if I got to sleep around 11pm-12am I’ll probably be able to wake at 7am the next morning. I have been limiting my reading time at night too, I either just don’t have the mood for it or I just can’t focus.

    • Hey Ki,

      That seems to be the pattern that works for me. Get in bed by 1am so I can wake up in 7-8 hours and ready to write. But like you I have to stop watching TV and reading early enough to get in bed!

  • Helen says:

    Suz

    I worked night shifts for about 12 years straight weekdays I finished between midnight and 3am then on weekend it was a 6am finish and this while (as You) had young kids to get off to school and sports and back then I would probably have 2 days a week off which I tried hard to stay up the first day off and just have a nap then I went ot rotating shifts so there would be some day and night and what we call mid shifts but 8 years ago I went onto all day shifts and I work 4 10 hour shifts so I have 3 days off each week so I have become a day person πŸ™‚ up at the crack of dawn nearly and into bed at around 930pm I always read for about 1 to 2 hours depending how tired I am I don’t watch TV but I also will put down a book even if there is only a little to go if I am really tired because if I keep trying to read I don’t enjoy the ending as much and go back and re read it LOL.
    I can only sleep for around 5 to 7 hours each night because come 500am I am awake not matter what time I go to sleep or how I sleep with the arthritis I find that the pain will wake me on and off during the night but we must do what we have to and I am hoping that when I retire things will improv.

    Glad to see you are getting back to normal after all these years

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Good for you getting to work days, Helen. Shiver at the idea of “getting up at the crack of dawn!”

      Now see, I cannot read before going to bed. For years that was one of the things that would keep me awake on slow nights with no patients. πŸ™‚

  • Annie West says:

    Suzanne, good luck with resuming normal sleep patterns and YAY on giving up the shift work in favour of writing. My father did shift work for about 40 years and it does have long term effects. So good you’ve made the break.

    Things that work for me are no computer work within an hour of bedtime, no coffee in the evening and sometimes hot milk and honey before bed – for years I’ve been providing that for the kids on nights when they’re too wired to head to bed and it seems to work.

    • Thanks, Annie!

      Your poor dad. 40 years on nights. Of course if you get past the first 3 it usually becomes habit!

      Warm milk and honey, huh?

      I do try to turn off the computer, but my problem is that if I watch a TV show or read, that’s as likely to keep me up.

      Looking at the clock and deciding to go to bed seems to be the real answer here.

  • Mozette says:

    So, how about you? Any tricks for getting to sleep at a descent hour?

    A decent hour? What’s that??? I get to sleep at midnight – a little after no matter what time I get to bed. My brain has a shut-off time and midnight is it. No if’s, no buts… midnight… πŸ™

    Tricks to staying asleep?

    Lavendar Oil… dab a bit of it on a handkerchief and stick it under you pillow and you’ll head off to the land of nodd in a second… honestly that’s what I do if I seriously can’t sleep. πŸ™‚

    Do you limit your reading so you don’t get book hangovers often?

    yeah… I do. I love reading, but I try to keep only one book next to my bed, otherwise there’s just too much choice.

    What do you to get over a late night book binge?

    Well… like I said, my brain turns off a midnight… so, there is an ‘off’ switch to my brain. πŸ™‚ So, no book hangover for me. πŸ™‚

    • Mozette,

      Midnight, huh? That is some internal curfew you have there. Not surprised though. Having an internal alarm clock myself.

      Yep. No matter what time I go to sleep, I tell myself what time I’m going to get up and POOF…I’m up at that hour. Amazes the Jazzman to no end.

  • Caren Crane says:

    I am not, and have never been, a night owl. I forced myself to stay up until 9:15 last night. I was so exhausted I wanted to go to bed at 7:30, but I made myself stay up.

    I have stayed up reading before, but never make it past about 1:30 or 2:00 am, no matter how great the book. I started reading The Goldfinch late two nights ago. Stopped after 10 minutes and went to sleep. πŸ™‚

    I do limit myself, because I know I will be up early no matter what!

    • Caren,

      I’m so sorry you got the X-men mutant gene of “early riser”. Seriously, I’m only up this early on a Saturday to man the blog before I go to a writer’s chapter meeting! LOL

      One of the perks of working nights is that…while the rest of the world is getting up to start their business day you can sleep in and not feel the least bit guilty! πŸ™‚

  • Shannon says:

    I’ve worked shifts on and off. Of course, some of the shifts were not the norm. My last shift job involved 0300-1200, 0600-0400, or 1300-1100. We rotated shifts every week so my body was always changing.

    When I was much younger I worked 2300-0700. Some times I pulled over time, one time for several weeks. I walked near by the Kennedy Center to my home on 25h street (no longer live there). I kept seeing this one good looking guy; we always said hi. Sometimes we’d discuss the weather. One time a co-work came with me for breakfast. I said hi to the guy and I walked on. My friend was nearly jumping up and down. “You know Al Pacino?” I checked the paper, and he was in a play. So naturally I went and then headed on to work.

    If I get a temporary rotation, I may be working 1300-2300 again.

    My problem is my doctor switched my med from one that made me wake up at 0330. Now I can barely get out of bed after 8 hours, no matter what time I go to sleep.

    Good luck stabilizing the sleep schedule. I know about putting down books. Authors now put hooks at the end of chapters. (Evil, very evil.) So I have learned to look at the Kindle and see that I’m 3 minutes from the end of the chapter, and it’s leading up to something, so I quit there.

    • Shannon!!

      You “know” Al Pacino? hehehe! Girl, that had to be some great conversations you two had!

      Okay, rotating shift work is way harder than just doing straight nights. When I was much, much, much younger I had to do that for a year before we switched to 3 12-hour shifts of either days or nights. TOTALLY SUCKED. It also taught me to stay on a modified night schedule.

      When the kids were little I’d be up or still up until they got on the school bus. If it was my day off, I’d do housework, read and write, run errands until it was 1 in the afternoon, take a 2-2&1/2 hour nap and be awake when they got home. If it was a day after working, I’d hit the sack as soon as they were gone and sleep a solid 6 hours. No matter what I was never in bed asleep before midnight. Nope. Never.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    Since I don’t work, if I stay up late it doesn’t matter much. I have been staying up lately to read. Last night I went to bed at 12:30 but we went to see Transformers and didn’t get out of the theater until 11:30! The bad thing, for me, about staying up late, is that then I want to go to bed at 9 the next night!

  • Patty L. says:

    I am a night shift person also. I work for my local police agency and have been on 1900 to 0700 shifts for the past four years. Lol. I request to go to a
    Modified eight weeks of nights to eight weeks of days. I also am NOT a morning person so we shall see what happens. Fingers crossed i don’t loose my shit with a citizen and get fired. No one understands the world of “nights” on less you have been there. Thanks for being a reformed “nighter”.

    • Hey, Patty!

      LOL. My former boss tried to talk me into doing some day shifts instead of just quitting. I told her I’d have to kill half her staff. They were too “perky” and “chatty” at 0700.

      Good luck with your change! At least I never carried a weapon beyond syringes or scalpels. Too dangerous for early birds around me! πŸ˜‰

  • catslady says:

    Night owls get no sympathy. I use to get up at 5 for work and get home after 6 and then cooked, cleaned and whatever and went to bed at 11:30. When I quit working it was because of having children so I probably got less sleep. But when they finally were older my nights got longer and I would go back to sleep after they started school. But my mom liked to call me early in the morning because I should be up and of course all the telemarketers. Then my older children kept me up at night because of their late hours so that’s when my night reading started. Now that they are gone I still read until 2:30 or 3. My mom finally doesn’t call me early but there is the phone and my retired neighbors that spend their lives lawn mowing, leaf blowing, weed wacking and hedge clippering (snow blowers and noisy shoveling in the winter). At least once a week I have to get up early (I bowl) and the body just does not want to change schedules. But since I’m not going out to work I am not allowed to complain to anyone lol. Oh, and my husband gets up at 4:30 am so we are on completely different schedules lol. And of course he can’t sleep late on weekends so invariably wakes me up. But I get lots of reading in so it’s worth it!

    • LOL, Catslady. That is soooooooooo true.

      I used to get called at noon to see if I wanted to come in early to work.

      I asked one nurse who routinely did that, “Would you like me to call you at midnight to ask you to come in the next morning?”

      She said, “No. That would be rude, I’d be sleeping.”

      I said…”Welcome to my midnight.” and hung up.

      She actually got mad and told me I should apologize the next day. I did. And the next time I was the charge nurse…she got that midnight phone call. πŸ™‚

      She never called me before 5 pm again.

  • Deb says:

    I have been a night owl this summer, going to bed around midnight or even later. But, I really don’t have any reason to really be up early…unless I want to go to the gym, and I haven’t had much motivation so far. During the school year, though, I am usually in bed by 9:30 or so to get up when my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.

    • Hey, Deb!

      You really must love the summer months. My personal feelings are that no sane person is up at 0530 unless they’ve already been up all night! πŸ™‚

  • Becke says:

    Suz,
    Yea for you to stop working nights and live off of writing. Big congratulations.

    I’m also a nurse and had to rotate shifts many moons ago. It was dreadful. I’m a morning person and I NEVER adjusted to nights. Very scary when I knew I was not on my game to take care of people.

    If the son comes up and I haven’t been in bed, I’m nauseated. The red eye flights-yuk.
    I never found a trick through it. I stop reading between 8:30-9 because we get up at 4:45.
    I read Gone with the Wind through the night during HS. I was miserable the next day. I was one of those kids who hated slumber parties!
    b

    • Hey, Becke!

      When I first worked nights, I’d get that 5 am nausea, but a few years later when I went to 12 hour nights again, it didn’t affect me nearly as much.

      And I was that kid that stayed up reading all night, got up after a few hours of sleep, went to school and still functioned. πŸ™‚

  • Amy Conley says:

    Hubby works nights, which works for me. First time in 30 I don’t get made to feel bad cause I don’t go to bed with him. Of course 30 years ago I wouldn’t have gotten into troble, cause I would have had my Kindle. But since he couldn’t sleep with the light on, and I was/am alway reading something, I’d stay. Many a fight later and all is good.

    • Hey Amy!

      I get in trouble if I do try to read with my Kindle, even with the screen black. It wakes up the hubby. I read in the living room…but not after midnight if I can help it!

  • Hey Suz –
    I’m something of a night owl. I’m usually up till about 2 am. But the cat likes to get me up at 5 am. I go back to bed about 6 am and sleep till 10am. I’m trying to go to bed earlier so I can max out my productive time but here’s my problem. My husband likes to fall asleep with the tv on. I’ve found I can’t sleep well with the light change that occurs with that tv. So I have a good sleep mask. That helps me get a sound sleep.

    Good Luck with the transition!!!

  • Susan Sey says:

    I’m totally a morning person. Not like a crazy-early-crack-of-dawn person, but every morning about 6:45, 7:00, I wake up. I can try to stay in bed but the newspaper’s just calling my name & a nice cup of coffee & a bowl of yogurt…. Yeah, I’m up.

    But if I have houseguests or a busy few days, I’m revving too high to go to shut it down & go to sleep easily. So I end up getting 4-6 hours a night instead of the 6-8 I do best with. Do that for a few weeks, & I’m TIRED.

    Here’s hoping you find a system that works for you, & keeps you writing, exercising & sleeping on a schedule that leaves room for all those grandbabies of yours!