I’ve worked a graveyard shift or two in my day, and I know just how much of a drain it can really be. You’re not just exhausted that night. If you don’t handle it right, it can throw off your schedule even when you’re off the clock so you don’t have the energy to spend time with friends and family. Implementing a security dispatch software into your business framework is a start, but here are 10 tips to stay alert & awake during the graveyard shift and not let it dominate your life.
- Eat Right And Exercise: No matter what you do, the graveyard shift is going to put some stress on your body. It’s nearly impossible to overhaul your schedule like that without losing some sleep and having your body protest the change. You don’t want to magnify this stress by also treating your body poorly. Healthy eating and exercise goes a long way.
“Eating and being in shape, your body can really take the less hours of sleep,” I told Johnny on today’s episode.
- Get On The Schedule Ahead Of Time: Don’t let your first nightshift also be the first night you spend up. That’s a recipe for disaster. Try to stay up as late as possible a couple nights before, then sleep through most of the day so you wake up for your graveyard shift feeling refreshed and ready to go.
- Hydrate And Snack: Bring a nice big water bottle and drink water throughout your shift. It’s hard enough to function well without a lot of sleep, so don’t compound the issue by also being dehydrated. Small, healthy snacks throughout the night can also keep you feeling alert.
- Caffeinate Responsibly: Everyone has different attitudes towards caffeine. Johnny says he couldn’t operate without it on a night shift, whereas I only kept some for the drive home in case I felt myself getting dangerously tired. Whatever the case may be, if you drink caffeine to stay awake, try to avoid it at the end of the shift when it will keep you from falling asleep when you get home. Caffeine can be a part of your routine, but don’t be dependent on it to keep you awake.
- Stay Safe: The most dangerous time is on the drive home after your shift. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Pull over and nap if you need to. I was once so tired that without even realizing it I ran three straight red lights one early morning. It can hit you before you realize it, so be especially careful, and even take a taxi or get a ride if necessary.
- Deal With The Light: Your body is conditioned to think that sunlight means it’s time to be awake. Get good blackout shades for your room so that you can sleep during the nighttime. Also, be prepared with shades for the early morning sun hitting your eyes on the drive home, since that can make the drive even worse.
- Build Relationships: The best thing to make the graveyard shift more tolerable is to enjoy working with the people around you. Utilizing a security guard app can help keep you and coworkers connected and improve response times. When I pulled graveyard shifts on the police force, we would play pranks on new officers by turning up the heat so they’d fall asleep, pulling up to a wall, running the lights, and then honking and screaming to wake them up with a scare. Having a bit of fun makes the night go by so much quicker.
- Stay Active: Ideally, you’ll be assigned to a graveyard shift that gives you a decent amount to do throughout the night. The worst thing any boss can do is assign a guard just to sit still and watch a property for eight hours, as that’s guaranteed to end with a sleeping guard. If you’re not assigned anything to do, find little tasks to engage your brain and keep it active.
- Commit To Your Schedule: Don’t sacrifice your sleep simply because the rest of the world still expects you to be up during the day. Don’t make lunch plans with friends or commit to go do something at 3 PM just because everyone else is awake then. You can still do things around breakfast time with your kids or friends, and then hang out right before your shift starts.
- It’s Not All Bad: I honestly actually enjoyed the graveyard shift once I got used to it. You have the whole day free, the early morning sunrise is beautiful, and there’s really nothing hard about it once you get on the right schedule.