Night Shifts 101: Tips On Surviving

Like most successful night shift workers, I'm an owl by nature. Owls dislike rising early, like to stay up late, and are productive in the wee hours long after most of the world has gone to bed. Those who are not self-described owls often suffer fatigue, chills, and nausea during the night. Working the graveyard shift forces the body to operate counter to its circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells us when we should be sleeping and when we should wake. It's not uncommon for people to suffer from shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) which is characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness. People with the disorder are more accident prone, irritable, and less able to concentrate. Despite the toll that such shifts can take, somebody has to work them. It helps to have a few strategies to make working those odd hours easier and here are some tips from yours truly. Going onto night shift – try to be active “the day before the day before”. Physical activity is good for you anyways and it will set you up for a decent “pre-night shift” sleep. Gym and house errands are my best friend and lately – yoga. Schedule sleeping prior shifts. Either stay up really late the night before, then sleep for the majority of the day before your first night shift. Or you could go to bed as usual the night before, have a normal day, then go back to sleep for an afternoon/evening nap and be off to work. On night shifts – what, when, and how much you eat and drink during a night shift can profoundly affect your level of alertness. It is important to choose the items that provide energy but do not cause sleepiness or a ‘crash-and-burn’ effect later on in the shift. Personally, I believe that such foods as fruit, vegetables, soup, salad, yogurt, nuts, and healthy snacks agree best with the gastrointestinal system at night, and heavy meals should be avoided – fast food, junk food and anything greasy or warm, heavy foods because they make me want to curl up on the couch. I also suggest sticking to water or tea at night because it's hard to be high functioning when you are symptomatically dehydrated. A mainstay of the night shift, caffeine has a role in maintaining alertness at work. Opinions vary on how much caffeine is useful and how much is harmful, but from my experience, it's best to stop drinking coffee in the early morning (e.g. 2AM-3AM). Sometimes a cup of coffee before the end of the shift helps me stay awake on my way back home.

Poput vecine uspjesnih nocnih radnika, po prirodi sam ‘nocna ptica’ a takav tip ljudi ne voli da se ustaje rano, ostajemo budni do kasno i produktivni smo u bas te sitne sate kadaa vecina ljudi uveliko spava. Oni koji se ne pronalaze u ovom opisu tokom rada nocu vecinom iskuse dodatni zamor, hladnocu i mucninu. Raditi nocu primorava tijelo da funkcionise u suprotnosti sa cikardijskim ritmom, unutarnjim satom koji nam govori kada trebamo biti budni a kada trebamo spavati. Nije neobicno da nocni radnici pate od poremecaja rasporeda budnost-spavanje (shift work sleep disorder/ SWSD) koji je pracen nesanicom i nekontrolisanom pospanoscu. Ljudi koji pate od ovog poremecaja su skloniji nesrecama, lako budu izbaceni iz takta i tesko se koncentrisu. Uprkos svom teretu koje nocne smjene nose sa sobom, neko ih mora raditi. Od pomoci je imati uz sebe par strategija kojima cemo olaksati sebi stvar a ovo bi bilo par mojih savjeta iz licnog iskustva. Prije odlaska u nocnu smjenu – pokusajte biti fizicki aktivni dan prije odlaska u nocnu smjenu (pa cak i tog dana). Svakako nam fizicka aktivnost koristi a pomoci ce i da lakse zaspimo prije odlaska na posao. Meni pomazu kucni poslovi i odlasci u tereatnu a u posljednje vrijeme i joga. Napravite raspored spavanja prije odlaska u nocnu smjenu. Mozete noc prije ostati budni do kasno, spavati do kasno ili cijeli dan pa otici na posao. Takodjer mozete noc ranije otici na spavanje kao obicno, voditi normalan dan i imati poslijepodnevnu dremku prije odlaska na posao. Tokom nocne smjene – sta, kada i u kojoj mjeri jedete i pijete tokom nocne smjene moze uveliko da utice na budnost na radnom mjestu. Vazno je odabrati namirnice koje ce dati energiju a nece izazvati pospanost ili nas ‘napumpati’ na koji sat pa naglo oboriti da spavamo. Vjerujem da namirnice poput voca, povrca, supa, salata, jogurta, orasastih plodova i sl. najbolje pasu probavnom traktu tokom noci. Ono sto treba izbjegavati su fast food, uopsteno junk prehranu, billo sta masno i toplo jer barem ja nakon konzumiranja takve hrane najradije pozelim da zaspim na kaucu. Takodjer preporucujem da se pije dosta vode ili caja jer je nemoguce biti visokofunkcionalna osoba na poslu ako smo dehidrirani. Dobri, stari prijatelj svih nocnih radnika je kafein na kojeg se mnogi od nas oslanjaju da nas odrzava budnima. Misljenja variraju oko toga koliko kafeina je dobro a koliko je lose za nas ali, iz svog iskustva, mogu samo reci da je najbolje prestati piti kafu oko 2-3 sata ujutro. Nekada je dobra ideja popiti jednu kafu prije odlaska na posao cisto da ostanemo budni dok ne stignemo kuci. 

After night  shifts – after post-nights breakfast, have a four hour nap e.g. 10AM-2PM. I think it's crucial to nap after coming home. Then, if possible, go out and get some daylight exposure and go to bed at your usual time. You need something to occupy yourself but nothing too demanding or exhausting. And actually doing something, moving around, hanging out with people, breathing fresh air is miles better than sleeping in. Trust me, after this schedule you'll want to fall into your PJs before midnight – and get back into the normal side of things tomorrow morning. I have tried sleeping for 36 hours (all day and all night). I cannot do this all the time but as soon as I get into extremely aggressive working schedules (for me it's during summer), I resort to it. If you do this, make sure to have a glass of water, some carbs (e.g. crackers) or fruit (dried or fresh) by the bed and a clear path between the bed and the toilet (learned this the painful way). Whilst doing so take measures to create an environment conducive for sleep by using curtains that darker the room; and disconnecting things that will disrupt sleep, such as the door bell, phones and electronics. Use eye masks and ear plugs (literally the best thing ever!) to eliminate noise and lights from a sleep environment. Turn off your cellphone – no excuses! Additional tips – the concept of surviving the night shift extends to what you do after a shift ends. If you suddenly realise you are too tired to drive home, DON'T. Use the public transport, get a taxi or phone a friend. Very important: don't commit to things during the day because daytime people expect you to – you are living their life in reverse. Those who work the night shift may experience feeling isolated from family and friends. Night shift employees often find themselves working harder to maintain relationships with loved ones who have conflicting schedules. Getting loved ones ‘on the same page’ also plays a crucial part in surviving the night shift. Planning and organisation is key! You have to schedule everything (appointments, errands) and you have to plan to sleep, and plan your other activities around (the night shift).

Nakon nocne smjene – kada stignemo kuci nije lose doruckovati i onda odspavati od npr. 10 ujutro do 2 sata poslijepodne. Mislim da je od krucijalne vaznosti odspavati par sati nakon posla. Potom, ako je ikako moguce, izadjite vani, izlozite se suncevoj svjetlosti i pokusajte dovesti dan u neki normalan red. Potrebno je necim se zabaviti ali da ne bude isuvise zahtjevno. I cak sam uvidjela da je druzenje sa ljudima, setnja, bilo kakvo angazovanje i boravak na svjezem zraku neuporedivo bolji od ostanka kuci cijeli dan. Vjerujte mi da ce tijelo samo vas usmjeriti na krevet i pidzamu nakon ovako provedenog dana – a sutra cete se u potpunosti vratiti u normalno stanje. Pokusala sam nakon nocne smjene spavati 36 sati (cijeli dan nakon nocne smjene i cijelu noc). Ne mogu da stalno funkcionisem na taj nacin ali cim mi na poslu zapocnu agresivnije smjene (to je u mom slucaju kraj proljeca i ljeto), njima naprosto moram pribjeci da bih prezivjela (dramaticno ali istinito). Ako vec zelite na ovaj nacin da se oporavite od nocne smjene, pobrinite se da na nocnom stolicu do kreveta imate vodu, nesto ugljikohidrata (poput krekera) i vocna (suho ili svjeze). Takodjer neka put od kreveta do toaleta i natrag bude raskrcen (ovo sam naucila na bolan nacin). I kada vec spavate nakon posla, poduzmite mjere da sebi olaksate utonuti u san – zamracite sobu (ja sam sebi nabavila guste i tamne zavjese), iskljucite sve aparate koji bi vam mogli prekinuti san (poput zvona – napisite ceduljicu ili ga u potpunosti iskljucite), mobitela itd. Nije lose imati pri ruci masku za spavanje i cepice za usi (nesto najbolje na svijetu!). I ozbiljno se zauzmite glede iskljucivanja mobitela – nema izgovora da vas bilo ko zove u periodu kada se oporavljate! Dodatni savjeti – koncept prezivljavanja nocne smjene se nastavlja i kada ona zavrsi – bitno je kuci stici zdrav i citav. Ako vozite auto i osjetite da ste jako pospani – NEMOJTE VOZITI. Koristite javni prevoz, pozovite taksi ili nazovite muza/prijatelja/sestru itd. da dodje po vas. Jako bitno: nemojte se obavezivati na bilo sta tokom dana kada izadjete iz nocne smjene sve i ako neki ljudi to od vas ocekuju – ne zaboravite da vi zivite njihov zivot naopako. Nocni radnici cesto osjecaju da su izolovani od prijatelja i porodice. Takvi radnici cesto moraju da se vise trude oko odrzavanja veza, prijateljstava, braka, odnosa sa djecom i uopsteno drustvenih odnosa sa drugim ljudima koji zive po potpuno drugacijem sablonu. Najbitnije je da vama najblize osobe shvate vas, vase potrebe i nacin zivota jer su upravo oni od neprocjenjive vaznosti u cijeloj igri prezivljavanja. Planiranje i ogranizacija su, kako vidite, kljucni! Doslovno sve morate da planirate (sastanke, obaveze) i morate planirati kada spavate ali i sve ostale aktivnosti koje se beskompromisno vrte oko nocnih smjena.

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