If you are reading this, it’s probably 3 am and you are dreaming of your cold, comfy pillow and nice warm bed. I know I am, because it’s 2 am and I’m writing this at work- wishing I was at home asleep! Shhhh. Don’t tell my boss!
It is hard to work night shift when you are a mom, but sometimes you have to do it. The world does not work on a night shift schedule. If you are like me, working overnight is what you have to do for you family. Whether it is because of childcare, financial obligations or career wise. Night shift may be your only option. It may seem like working while everyone else is asleep is awful – but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some tips to help you fight through the fog if you have kids and are stuck on the overnight shift.
- Try to stick to a routine. It is hard because you won’t usually work seven days straight, so there are nights when you will be home and can sleep. It can definitely be tough for your body to adjust on your nights off. Try to get the same amount of sleep each day/night (or close to it anyway). Don’t oversleep on your days off. As hard as it is – try not to skimp when you actually can sleep.
- Eat Healthy(ish). When you work at night, it’s so tempting to go for the quick and sugary snacks because you just need the energy. Seriously – why are all the Dunkin donuts closed before 11 pm? Find foods that don’t bother your stomach that are relatively healthy and have enough protein to give you the energy you need. Try to meal prep if possible so you can grab something quickly and don’t have to worry about stopping at a convenience store if you oversleep and wake up 10 minutes before your shift.
- Watch the coffee. If you have to (and let’s face it – we all need to) try to have coffee before or at the beginning of your shift. Try not to have it 4 hours before you know you will actually get some sleep. As moms we all think caffeine does not affect us, but if you only have a few hours to get some shut eye you do not want to jeopardize it! Plus when you are able to sleep, you do not want to have to hit the bathroom because of all that caffeine.
- Prepare for your shift. Preferably way before your shift starts. Make sure you have a bag packed with your essentials. Including but not limited to: Medications (headache, heartburn meds, pepto if you need it), phone charger, non perishable snacks, meals in the fridge etc. If you end up sleeping in or are running late, you know everything is taken care of and by the door. That way you can get as much sleep as possible – if you are able to sleep before work. Make sure your car has gas as well. It’s not fun trying to find a gas station that is open (or safe) late at night!
- Mask distractions. When you can sleep, try to limit distractions. If you are sleeping while the kids are in school- block non school/non emergency numbers and texts. Let the people who may drop by or text you non – stop know that you are, in fact sleeping! Leave a sign for the amazon guy, there is nothing worse than your doorbell ringing when you have slept for a half hour. Tell your freaking neighbor maybe to not use his leaf blower at 9 am. Sorry maybe that’s just my neighbor!! Block out any natural light, use a mask and earplugs if you can. Turning on a fan or AC also helps block out some noise, especially if your little ones are there while you are sleeping.
- Prepare to sleep. This may sound insane, but if you have little kids – this is a #momtruth. Bring all the crap you may need (ibuprofen, water, tums, an ice pack, phone charger etc.) in the bedroom or where ever you are sleeping. If you wake up with a headache or heartburn or a tickle in your throat- you WILL NOT want to go back in the kitchen or anywhere that your kids are. Once they see you- all bets are off. They will want hugs and to tell you the story of every dog they ever came across. Stay in there like it’s the end of the world, don’t show your face. Trust me.
- Find a schedule what works for you. It may take working a few night shift configurations – but if possible try to do what works for you. If it’s easier try to schedule your shifts together (if possible) to get them over with or spread them apart if that works better for you.
- Leave the guilt at the door. If you are a working mom and don’t have much help- do not feel guilty that you HAVE TO get some sleep. When my oldest daughter was a little older and more independent – I would let her watch a movie and I would fall asleep on the couch. She knew I was there if she needed me. I was able to get a little sleep that helped get me through the day. If your kids are younger and aren’t independent- don’t feel guilty asking for help. Get a babysitter or daycare if needed, utilize family and friends that are willing to help. You need sleep to stay healthy and be able to take care of your kids! Try to sleep as long as you can and don’t cut yourself short every day. Do what you can – and do not feel guilty about it.
- Quality Time. When you work at night, your days and times are usually far off from your family’s waking hours. Try to get some quality time with your kids when you are awake. Its hard when you have household duties, work and kids. You are not able to do it all! Devote a set time without distractions to hang out with your family. Set a timer if you have to and just to take time and play, do crafts, read, or whatever. That way you won’t feel as bad when you do have to sleep or miss bedtimes because you know you had some good quality time with your kids/ partner.
- Get something done while you sleep. Throw a load in the washer, run the dishwasher, set meat to defrost or throw a meal in the crock pot. These things may just take a few minutes to start. It definitely is worth it when you have one less thing to do when you wake up!
Night shift isn’t for the faint of heart! I have been doing it for 14 years and truth be told – I wish I didn’t have to! But you do what you have to. The most important thing is that you get enough sleep and take care of yourself. What are your tips for working night shift?