10 Tips for Surviving the Graveyard Shift (and the Day After)

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iStock

When the clock strikes the witching hour, most Americans are snug in their beds. But millions of workers (many of them healthcare professionals, security guards, or remote workers) are just clocking in.

"Graveyard shift is an evocative term for the night shift between about midnight and eight in the morning, when—no matter how often you've worked it—your skin is clammy, there's sand behind your eyeballs, and the world is creepily silent, like the graveyard,” says Michael Quinion of World Wide Words. Working while everyone else is asleep can turn you into the walking dead.

Surviving this type of lifestyle requires more than just flip-flopping your sleep schedule; you also need to rethink the way you spend every waking hour. Here are 10 tips for making the overnight shift work, from the people who’ve done it.

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

Your body usually knows what it needs … even if your brain may disagree. “If you are up, stay up. If you are tired, rest,” says Danielle Pearson, who worked remote overnight hours while traveling for four months in Asia. It may sound simple, but it can be especially difficult when, like Pearson, you want to spend your days exploring instead of sleeping. But resting when your body tells you it's time makes all the difference when it comes to being able to operate at max capacity without a typical schedule.

2. GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADJUST.

There’s no point in sugarcoating it: No matter what you do, the first month is going to be brutal. Give yourself enough time to adjust to your new routine by scheduling as few non-work-related activities as possible; instead, focus as much of your energy as you can on changing your sleep patterns. And most importantly, don't set an alarm when sleeping during the day (unless it's one to signal it's time to get ready for work). Let yourself sleep until your body tells you it's had enough.

3. GET THE RIGHT ACCESSORIES.

Woman sleeping while wearing an eye mask
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You may want to fall asleep at 9 a.m. when your shift ends, but the sun streaming through your window has other plans. The best thing you can do is shut out all of the light and noise in your bedroom. "I had to have a sleep mask and ear plugs to fall asleep,” says Pearson. Blackout shades and a sound machine can be helpful, too. And don't skimp on your bed: A good mattress and pillows will help keep you in bed, even when everyone else’s day is in full swing.

4. TIRE YOURSELF OUT.

"I would try and be active and have a full day so I would be tired when I would sign off at 1 a.m. for bed,” says Pearson. Exercise helps, especially if you treat it like a “morning workout” before starting your day (or night).

5. STICK WITH A SOLID ROUTINE.

If you’re going to be a night-shift person, you need to fully commit—switching between days and nights will only make things more difficult. For Tyler Duzan, who spent four years as a graveyard-shifter in his technology job, this means: "You’re awake no earlier than 5 p.m. on non-working days just to get a chance to do errands and meet people after their day-shift for drinks. You’re in bed no later than 10 a.m. on non-working days so you can ignore the horror that is day-time television. You get a minimum seven hours of sleep every day, and you maintain exercise routines on non-working days at night."

6. POP A MELATONIN.

Just not taking to the new routine? Consider adding a natural supplement to help you adapt. "Right when you get home in the morning [after your shift], take a shower, and then after the shower take a melatonin tablet,” says Duzan. "Melatonin is a chemical produced naturally in your body to trigger sleep and helps regulate your body’s clock. By artificially introducing melatonin during the day, you will shift your body’s clock to accept a flipped [circadian] rhythm.”

7. STAY SCREEN FREE.

Man looking at his cell phone while in bed
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Since any time you have to sleep is a luxury, it’s important you get the most bang for your buck the minute your head hits the pillow. Put your phone far, far away, and do not try to fall asleep with the TV on. The blue light emitted by your electronics can mess with your circadian rhythm—which you've already turned on its head.

8. KEEP IT COOL.

There are few things cozier than curling up under a big blanket in a cold room, and this is extra important when you’re trying to sleep during the day. "Keep the temperature in your room about two to three degrees cooler than you find typically comfortable," says Duzan. "This will both help with temperature changes as it warms up outside and encourage deeper sleep.”

9. LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE.

“Just like ‘day walkers,’ you have to eliminate caffeine consumption after 'lunch-time,’ says Duzan. "The less caffeine your rely on the better all-around, but it’s especially important you don’t consume any caffeine after 2 a.m.” Instead, drink water or juice. Juice contains sugar which helps to even out your metabolism during the night and consuming enough water eliminates the risk of dehydration and also keeps you awake. According to Duzan, if you’re in a state of cycling water through your body, you won’t sleep.

10. TAKE A "LUNCH" BREAK—BUT DON'T SPEND IT EATING.

"That 3:30 feeling” is a thing in the middle of the night, too. The hardest time during the night shift to be productive is between 3 and 5 a.m., a period colloquially known among night-shifters as “the 3 o'clock hump.” "There are a few ways you can deal with this, from taking a seated nap (zero-gravity chairs are great for this) to exercising,” says Duzan. (Of course, don't take a nap if it would put someone in danger or is prohibited.) "I have found that exercising is the most effective and won’t negatively impact your sleep cycle during the day. Take an hour, but don’t get lunch—go to the gym instead and eat a healthy snack." Gym not open in the wee hours of the morning? Keep a jumprope handy or do some pushups—anything to get your blood flowing.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer

Amazon
Amazon

If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

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7 Online Tech Course Programs That Will Help You Build New Career Skills

dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus
dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It's always a good time to build new career skills, and with these tech-related courses, you can learn anything from the basics of Python to the ins and outs of G Suite. These courses will boost your knowledge of the digital world and help you put some valuable new bullet points on your resume. Many of these courses allow you to read through the materials for free, but if you want to take advantage of graded coursework and earn a certificate of completion to include on your LinkedIn profile or resume at the end, there will be a fee of anywhere from $39 to $49.

1. UI/UX Design Specialization

In this four-class specialization on UI/UX design, you’ll discover how to design digital experiences that users can navigate with ease. Over about four months, you’ll learn the basics of visual communication and you’ll be able to practice gathering user feedback to build intuitive, attractive websites and interfaces.

Sign up on Coursera to take all four courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

2. Python for Everybody

Python is quickly gaining ground as one of the most in-demand programming languages for employers. Plus, its fans say it’s highly readable and approachable for new programmers just starting to learn a coding language. If you want to understand the basics of Python, from 101 principles to more advanced database design, these courses will get you started.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

3. Data Science Professional Certificate

Data science is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this nine-course professional certificate program, you’ll start by learning basic data science methodology before moving into how to use Python and SQL to analyze and visualize data to forecast future trends. IBM estimates that you’ll complete the entire certificate in about 10 months if you commit four hours per week, but the timing is flexible enough to suit any schedule.

Sign up on Coursera to take all nine courses in this specialization for $39 a month.

4. Computer Architecture

This course, taught by an electrical engineering professor at Princeton, teaches students how to design computer hardware that supports powerful software. But be forewarned: This is an advanced class intended for students with extensive knowledge in computer science. If you’re looking for a beginner-level course, this class—also from Princeton—may be a better fit.

Sign up on Coursera for free.

5. AI for Everyone

If you’re worried that artificial intelligence will drive you out of the workforce, this course will help. Over the course of four weeks, you’ll learn the basics of what is and isn’t possible through AI—and you may even gain some ideas for how to use AI to augment your own career.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

6. G Suite Administration Specialization

Become a Google Cloud expert with this series of courses put together by Google itself. Over about two months, you’ll learn management tactics and security guidelines for using Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Calendar. This specialization prepares participants to become G Suite administrators at their respective companies and organizations.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

7. Introduction to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is near the top of the list of skills employers are looking for, according to LinkedIn. In this introductory course, you’ll gain a basic understanding of cloud-based networks and get some practice working with IBM Cloud.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.