Over the christmas period, I had a change in my usual work routine. Quite a drastic change! College was finished and I had a lot more time on my hands. I knew I needed to put this time to good use, instead of curling up on the sofa by the fire and watching copious amounts of Netflix (Even though that sounds fantastic!). I’m writing this post now as I simply did not get a chance over Christmas to do so, mainly because of the change in work. As they say though, there is no time like the present!
Usually, I work the day time shifts and clock up an average of 16-20 hours a week. It was impossible for me to do anymore with college and training. If anything I was lucky to even be able to get this many hours, due to my not so flexible timetable. Kudos to the managers who help me out constantly on that regard! Much appreciation! If I didn’t have this job, then I’d be in a very sticky situation – with the bank loan, car insurance, tax, petrol and money I owe my parents all part of my hefty monthly bill. All this has to be taken into consideration and thus led to me changing my workload, quite drastically too.
This change saw me take up an offer of working night shifts instead of my usual day time shifts for the Christmas period. Obviously, I snapped up this offer more or less straight away. I did need all the money I could get so it seemed like a reasonably move, especially as the hours were nearly double compared to day shifts. The only problem at first was that it was going to be hard to work around training but at the end of the day I have the whole year to train, and for me to pass up the chance to make a very nice wage package would be completely unintelligent. It’s all about the sacrifice and trying to do what’s right! In reality, it was a really good move but it was by no means easy. I was very naive in a way!
I always remember people, whether it be family or friends, telling me about their experiences with working night shifts. I knew it was obviously hard work but I didn’t fully understand how hard it was. I didn’t think much about it. I presumed you just got up and worked like usual. It was only until I started doing the actual night shifts, that I realised how blinded I was by my sheer lack of knowledge on working these shifts. During the first two weeks of December, I was only doing one night shift a week as I was still in college and it was prime exam time. The thing about only doing it once a week is that you don’t feel the full effects of working the long and strange hours your body isn’t used too. I was perfectly ok with it because it was only once a week, so my body didn’t really change at all and I felt more or less fine. That’s not to say I wasn’t tired after it, I was! It was very doable though. That was until college finished two weeks into December and the big change came.
The move from once a week to 4-5 times a week took place during this period. There was no adjustment period or weaning of any sort. I was thrown straight in! I didn’t mind this at all to be honest, I was just grateful for the extra hours but my body was far from grateful of this decision I had just made. It reminds me of that R. Kelly song ‘Bump and Grind‘ when he sings the crisp lyrics of “My minds telling me no but my body, my body’s telling me yes..”. Expect in a contrasting reversal and not in the same context obviously! My mind was telling me everything would be ok, but my body was being drained!
I was completely unaware of how hard it would be, completely unaware. It’s why I now hold a high regard and appreciate for those who work night shifts. It’s not easy and I appreciate that they put themselves through the work to provide. They deserve kudos because it’s not even remotely close to working a day shift. I mean the actual work itself is fine, but the adjustment period and the toll it takes on your body isn’t easy. You’re also losing out on a big chunk of your day and are more or less living at night. I very rarely saw the time of day during those two weeks, simply because I would be in bed! This was from my personal experience anyway. I’m sure the usual night shift workers have adjusted by now, but it doesn’t take away from the realities of it all. The hardest part for me was trying to cope with my body clock which then leads onto extreme tiredness. Usually, I would go to bed anytime between 10pm – 12am and get up roughly anytime between 8am – 11am depending on what I have on that day. However, when you throw a spanner in the works and start a night shift at 12am your body doesn’t know what to do. The hardest thing about the first few days is that you literally can not sleep. I remember trying to go to bed at 6pm in order to get a few hours sleep and I simply couldn’t. I wasn’t tired. I couldn’t force myself to sleep! This meant that I would go to work at 12am with literally no sleep and an absurd amount of coffee in my system to try stay awake. This works until you reach the 4am mark and your body is going into withdrawal mode. There is only so much a coffee can do!
The flipside of all this is that after the first few days, your body clock does a complete reversal and you find yourself sleeping at crazy times and for crazy periods. It’s impossible to be subtle about the whole thing, because there is such a contrast between the two.Your night is now your day and visa versa. The fact that it gets darker really quick during winter doesn’t help either. It was genuinely the strangest feeling ever and my body didn’t know what to do. There’s no middle ground. Hence why it’s such a drastic change. I found myself coming home after the shift was finished and literally sleeping for the whole day. This was a rinse and repeat effect for the two weeks. I tired to keep up with training as much as I could but it was very difficult. I would usually train in the evening around 6pm but now I was in bed so trying to fit it into the schedule was hard. Again though, I understood this was going to happen and I was willing to take a step back from my rigorous training schedule to work. It helped me out extremely in the long run.
The other downside to working the night shift was my diet. Usually, I would get a relatively good amount of meals in during the day. I would eat roughly every three hours and had a bit of a routine going. As diet is extremely important for my training and recovery, I didn’t want to lose this routine. Needless to say, I lost it and more! Whether it be that I was working or sleeping, getting time in the day to eat was difficult. The whole body clock reversal changed my eating habits completely and I just couldn’t get into any bit of a routine. When I did eat, It was bad junk food that had no benefit to me at all. The diet part of working a night shift was the biggest change and probably the most difficult second to change in sleeping pattern. If you don’t fuel your body with healthy, efficient food then you’re going to feel drowsy, tired and run down. I felt all of those effects and it wasn’t pleasant!
As the Christmas period is over, I’ve resumed my normal working hours. Thankfully, my body didn’t take long to change back over to its previous known state. After a few days I was feeling my old self and the sleeping pattern, as well as diet, were back to normal. Will I work a night shift again? Probably, but I certainly don’t want to make a habit of it. For now, I’m perfectly happy working the day shift and it suits my lifestyle perfectly at the moment. I still find it amusing to myself that I was so blinded by my lack of knowledge. So, in a way actually working the night shift has given me an understanding and appreciation towards the people who do it on a daily basis.
Have you ever worked a night shift? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!