Your time has come: it’s time to step up to the plate, earn those extra hours, and grind through the night shift.
Maybe it works better with your school schedule, or you really need to pick up the extra work, but whatever the reason, you know the road ahead of you is not going to be an easy one—that is, unless you take the time to prepare.
The night shift can be one of the greatest adventures of your hourly working career: you’ll meet new friends, find plenty of new stories, and grow in your ability to take on hard tasks and new challenges at work.
You’ll be an all around better worker for your experience.
Proper preparation will only make that easier on you.
To start you off, we’ve come up with eight of our best tips that other workers have used in the past to get through the night shift. As you count yourself among the ranks, try out each of these different strategies work best for you. You may find that you can rely on one or two to make the night a breeze, or it might require a perfect chorus of all eight.
We can’t account for museum exhibits coming to life, but barring any events like that, these tips should get you through the night with flying colors.
Get a Proper Amount of Sleep Before
This may seem like common sense, but you won’t feel the negative repercussions of a bad night’s sleep any harder than when you’re on the night shift. Common wisdom says that you should be getting anywhere from 6-8 hours of sleep. And while it may seem logical to get extra sleep, that can ultimately just tire you out even more.
Make sleep before a night shift a priority as much as you can. Remember that it’s going to be a major factor of your performance. Make one misstep because you’re overtired and you could lose your job right on the spot. When one group did a study of the effects of sleep deprivation, they found that a lack of sleep can present some of the same behaviors as drunkenness.
Don’t Over Caffeinate
It’s going to be tempting for pound a couple of energy drinks and then hit the road, but that’ll do you about as much good as getting two hours of sleep.
You’ll just be setting yourself up for a major crash mid-shift. Sip slowly, avoid sugary caffeinated drinks, and try an apple instead.
The best way you can do that, if you really need the caffeine, would be to get a black iced coffee—none of the milk or sugar to weigh you down—and keep it in the fridge at work.
Sip it slowly from time to time, giving you a little bit of that jolt you need every so often to keep going.
Grazing is a way of snacking smart—yes, in other words, there are techniques for snacking. You know that 3 o’clock feeling everyone talks about? It’s the point in the day when your blood sugar is probably at its lowest, and there are snacks that can help to boost it, and give you more energy. Conversely, have you ever eaten too big of a lunch and then felt sleepy when you got back to work?
Grazing is eating small portions of food extended over a long period of time. The goal is to keep yourself energized with food, without having your body need to waste energy at any one time digesting too much food.
Take Mini Workout Breaks
If you get tired and you’re out of ideas, it might be time to kick you blood flow into overdrive, and do some mini-workouts. Sneak off to the side and do some push ups, pull ups, or jumping jacks.
On your break, if you’re in an emergency, need-sleep situation, you may need to take a chance on a power nap. While it may leave you feeling groggy for the first few minutes after you wake up, it’s going to be a vast improvement in the long run.
While you may need to perfect the art form over a few shifts, but start with just a 10-minute rest. If you do well with that, try increasing it by five-minute intervals. Never go over 25 minutes—you could get into a deeper sleep at that point, ultimately leaving the chance that you don’t wake back up.
Drink Lots of Water
Staying hydrated is like grazing. If you can keep sipping on water throughout the night, you’ll feel healthier, more energized, and less focused on your own exhaustion. It’s a no-brainer, easy way to keep yourself feeling active throughout the night.
Plan Out Every Hour
Boredom is often the culprit for those who can’t make it through the night shift. There may be a long stretch of quiet, and it makes you miserable with tiredness. The best way to counteract it: plan. Plan aggressively.
If you want to be the master of the night shift, planning is your best friend. Not only will it keep you occupied with activities and tasks for every hour, but you’ll ultimately be more productive, working on tasks that other employees may not have thought to accomplish—helping you to stand out from the crowd.
Finally, find a friend. When you’re working on the night shift, you have to remember you’re not the only one. Whether it’s someone else on your shift, or a buddy who has to do the same, find someone who can be your support in person or in thought. Being able to go through it with someone who’s got your back can make all the difference in the world.