Monday, April 15, 2013

Shifty Work...

I've had a slothful approach to exercise over the last couple of years. I just haven't felt like getting out there and working out or taking a major hike.

 I've noticed over the course of my career, where I have changed shifts often, that it takes a year or two to get used to the time change/body clock of a new shift. Of course, I never got used to working nights--and I hope to never, ever have to do that shift again. There is something painful about staying up all night; especially those awful hours between 4 am and 6 am where your whole body hurts and sleep is the only thing you can think about. Talk to a night shift worker and within a couple of minutes they will tell you: 1. how many hours they slept that day; and 2. what drugs/techniques they use to initiate sleep when the sun is blazing outside. They will tell you about black out shades, eye coverings and what combination of Benadryl, Restoril, Ambien, Valerian root, cannabis, Lunesta or Melatonin they take in order to get a few hours of sleep. And it gets worse.  When you've worked a night shift and the sun comes up, your body's rhythmic clock wakes up with the sun and sleep becomes impossible. Sunlight wakes you up no matter how tired you are. At least for me: I never slept when I worked the night shift.

And I am always thankful to go to bed when it is dark outside. If you've never worked the night shift, you won't understand how this feels. So, I challenge you to stay up all night for a week and try to sleep during the day. You will become exhausted and depressed in a hurry.

 Always say "thank you" to any public servant (nurse, police officer, 911 operator, Denny's short order cook) who puts their health and sanity at risk by working the night shift. Women who work the night shift get breast cancer more than women who work normal shifts.

Back to shift changes.

I notice that  every time I change a shift, it takes forever to get used to it. When I moved from swing shift to day shift,  it took years to get used to that. And this time I moved from the day shift to a semi-swing shift (I start at 1 pm) and it has also taken me a couple of years to get used to the change. The first time I noticed this was when I changed from a swing shift, after having worked it for five years, to taking a day job. I didn't feel rested for over a year. I was always tired.

Which is why today is so important: I got up and took a hike with some friends. And it has been almost two years of working this semi-swing shift before I actually accomplished that goal. 52 years old and 30 years of working odd shifts and I finally figure this out!

Only a person who has worked various shifts can understand how it feels to change shifts. I don't think many of us do that gracefully. And I've read the studies about the quickest way to make an employee sick and depressed is to vary their shifts often. Changing shifts is hard on a body; it is especially hard over age 50.

So here's to actually having managed to get a hike in before work. I'm amazed it took me this long to figure out the problem.


  1. Shift work is definitely not good for you. I used to work offshore & halfway through our two-week hitch, we would switch from working noon-midnight to midnight-noon. My head would spin for a week. It's been related to serious health issues, as you point out.

    Some nice comment chatter on a website I read:

  2. Thanks for the note Bill. Only people who have done odd shift work can relate to this.