I have been a night shift nurse for almost two years now. I worked as a customer service representative in 2010, where I worked for an American company till 2013. I tried a different job that offered a morning shift but ended up working graveyard shifts again at the beginning of 2016. Because of these crazy shifts that I’ve been to, my circadian rhythm is all over the place.
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. One of the most critical and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.
– Sleep Foundation (A One Care Media Company)
Most of my graveyard and weekend rosters were by choice. And I know that I’ll be able to get more money because of the differentials and weekend rates. But now, I’m starting to feel the long-term side / adverse effects of working my favourite shift.
I’M LAZY MOST DAYS. I have a long list of to-do’s, and they’ve been on the board for a week now. I’m getting lazier every day. I like to sit down and binge-watch or read whatever book that’s in front of me. I’m gaining expertise in procrastinating! I used to exercise every day, but now, I don’t have the energy! I’ll stretch for one minute and then sit down again.
I’M ALWAYS SLEEPY. I never had a problem with sleeping before. I used to be awake for 24 hours and survive by just eating chocolate and drinking coffee (6-8 cups a day! phew) I titrated my coffee intake from 8 cups to 1-2 cups a day now. I’d say that downgrading my caffeine intake was one of my best accomplishments. After my 32nd birthday, I noticed that I’ve become too sleepy to enjoy everything I used to love before, like walking with my husband on the beach or drinking coffee on the veranda while looking at the sunset.
There was a week when all I did was sleep all day on my three days off work, and I didn’t see my husband because he was on an afternoon shift. And since I’m always sleepy from sleeping too much, I slept early and woke up at 2:00 PM the next day! All I remembered was his kiss and three words — “see you tonight.”
I was so sad that I started re-thinking my life choices and what should I do about working night shifts.
I’M ALWAYS SPACING OUT. Besides being disoriented most of the time, I forget things quickly even though I remind myself. I tried studying something about investing one day and forgot everything the next day! It’s getting frustrating every day. Now, I’m solely relying on muscle memory (thank God for that!)
I’M AWAKE DURING THE NIGHT ON MY REST DAYS. Lately, I get sleepy at around 5:00 PM. I try to stay awake and hold off sleeping till 9:00 PM. Unfortunately, even if I sleep at 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM or 12:00 AM, I still wake up at 2:00 AM. Then I’ll be awake all night even if I close my eyes. After three weeks, I gave up and decided to get up and start my day if I’m still awake at 6:00 AM.
My husband used to work night shifts with me in the same hospital. Something happened at work that triggered him to quit and apply to a different institution. In that hospital, he’s mostly on day shifts so he can see the sun. After working for 6 months, he started asking me if I want to work with him and quit working on nights. That was 2021, I immediately refused because I loved my job in ED, and to be honest, I never see myself working in a different area.
But due to some inevitable circumstances, I lost my passion. Working in ED on days is going to be challenging for me. I want to, but my mind and body are something different. I hope that one day, I’ll find out what I want.
For now, I’ll continue taking iron tablets, drinking milk and eating healthy food so my body can keep up with the night shift. I’ll push myself to be motivated to exercise everyday, learn new things and acquire new sklls. Who knows, maybe one day I can quit nursing and live the rest of my life walking on a different career path.
If you are like me who’s grinding during the night and you still have the chance to escape the graveyard shift, then do so. Don’t be like me. Focus on your health and shift early while you still can. You might feel healthy and energetic for now, but it’ll change in the next few years of your life. I can’t believe I’m saying this to think I’m not even at my 50’s.
I’m going to quit soon. I think it’s pretty hard to end a cycle when you get used to it, and it has become a part of your life for the longest time. I believe that everyone has the opportunity to change even though they find it impossible. I want to take advantage of the chance if I can.