Night Shift might be killing me

  1. Any night shifters here? I'm only 30 (soon to be 31) and I feel like my body is falling apart. I've been working night shift since college (about 10 years give or take). I've gained weight, can't sleep, my joints ache - i feel like a 90 year old!!! Advice?
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    About NICU_3_RN

    Joined: Sep '06; Posts: 60; Likes: 2
    NICU level III
    Specialty: 6 year(s) of experience in NICU, ER/Trauma

    51 Comments

  3. by   rn/writer
    Both my husband and I have worked nights for years by choice. That's the key right there. There used to be a ton of research that concluded that noc shift was potentially harmful. Subsequent studies have revealed a gigantic difference in level of damage between those who work nights against their will and those who choose it.

    If nights is not your preference, I'd suggest taking a look at the factors that contribute to that mindset. If you're fighting your own body, that's the hardest to deal with. But if it has to do with other things--child care, social life, old habits--much of that can be altered by changing your thinking.

    I have always been a night owl, so working third shift meant I could STOP fighting my own nature and go with the flow, so to speak. Then, because I was happy about having a schedule that felt much better than days or even PMs, I was open to seeing some of the advantages that go with working nights. We shop at odd hours when the stores are quiet. We go out for lunch and an afternoon movie. We're usually driving opposite the worst traffic. It's sort of like living in a parallel universe. We travel the same path as everyone else, and yet we don't.

    And we've taken measures to accommodate our weird schedule. Made sure the bedroom was dark, dark, dark. Got the TiVo clone from our cable company so we can watch TV at our convenience. Have learned to be very flexible about what we eat and when. Many more adjustments.

    I can't imagine working days. Seriously, I'd want a HUGE shift differential to start coming in at 0700.

    If you are able to sort out what it is about night shift that is giving you physical symptoms and stress, you might be able to take an objective look at whether or not you can continue to make it work for you. If you can, there is much to be gained--the aforesaid differentials, easier employability, far less competition for parking, etc. If not, then you know you have to find a way to get on days or PMs.

    I wish you well.
  4. by   Tweety
    Miranda, I wonder if people change. You're post could have been written by me 3 years ago. I was a natural night owl and worked night jobs for about 20 years or so. I thought I would spent my entire career working nights, saying "I'll never work days, I hate days, my body couldn't handle it."

    I think what really threw me off was the 12-hour shifts and having inconsistent sleeping patterns on my days off. When I worked 5 eight hour shifts, I was more into a pattern and it felt better. I never slept more than five hours at a time on my days off when I switched to 12-hour shfits. After working nights all those years my body finally said "enough".

    Another clincher was the spouse got a Masters degree and got a dayteim directorship job. We worked nights together for the first 7 years together and it worked well.

    My spouse noticed just the other day "gee you slept for 8 hours last night, you never used to sleep that much".

    Of course, rising early to get to work by 7 is killing me too, but my days off feel so much more energetic.

    Sorry, I don't really have any advice because my answer was to switch to day shift. It was going to be a trial, to see if it really made a difference, and it does so for now I'm staying. Perhaps that's what you need to do, is a trial of day shift working. I always said "I can't afford to do without the differential." But I never really noticed much, especially after a raise or two.
    Last edit by Tweety on Sep 25, '06
  5. by   rn/writer
    I think what really threw me off was the 12-hour shifts and having inconsistent sleeping patterns on my days off. When I worked 5 eight hour shifts, I was more into a pattern and it felt better. I never slept more than five hours at a time on my days off when I switched to 12-hour shfits. After working nights all those years my body finally said "enough".
    I don't know that I could do ANY 12-hour shifts. Just don't have the stamina to do 12s anymore. I need time to wind down from work. And time to gear up again. Twelves don't allow for that if you want any time to have a family or even do something as mundane as grocery shopping.

    Eight-hour noc shifts are my cup of diet Coke.
  6. by   NICU_3_RN
    thanks for your replies... i do work 12 hours at a time -and I can tell you that part of the reason i'm not doing well with it any more is because i'm lving with family at the moment, and htey're not doingg night shift - so it's hard. you can bet that they dont' understand taht i need to sleep during the day - and it's hard to have an actual life when my boyfriend is a regular 9-5er. so, on days i have to work, if i get 4.5 - 5 hours of sleep, im lucky... and then to acclimate when i'm off... its just so hard any more. I was doing it as a matter of choice for the larger shifft diff originally, but now that i'm getting older, honestly, it just sucks.

    as much as I don't know if I could ever work days... (ugh, 7am report time. ick)... at least then i'd have a regular schedule, you know?

    i just don't know.
  7. by   HannasMom
    I tried the 12 hour nightshifts a few weeks ago, and my body hated it. Mentally I hated it too. I like to unwind before I go to bed, plus wake up slowly before I get ready for work. It was awful to force myself to go to bed as soon as I got home and then have to get up and get ready for work. My body needs 7-8 hours of sleep to function well. Plus I need the "play-time" before bed.

    I hated the facility also, so that didn't help, I won't go into details. I now have a night shift charge nurse position at a real nice facility. I oriented two days on day shift last week. Then life happened and my Mom passed away. I talked with the DNS on Friday and told her I want to come back to work for night shift orientation tonight.

    Hope I make it okay, I have been teary all morning. My son is moving into student housing tomorrow, so that doesn't help my mood any, even though he will only be a 15 minute trimet bus ride away from home. Too me he could be as far away as across country. It is all the same to me, he is my youngest and last son to leave the nest. Plus my husband has been a pain in the b**t all morning. Sorry off subject, but I needed to vent.:uhoh21:

    Anyway, 12 hour shifts are real hard to me. Also getting older doesn't help. It is also hard when living in someone else's home and they have their own schedule they live by and to them yours is strange, so they are unable to understand. "What asleep again? You are going to sleep this beautiful day away!" UGH!!! Been there done that!

    I hope things work out for you. This kinda stress can mess a person up physically. Good luck!
  8. by   teeituptom
    Quote from NICU_3_RN
    Any night shifters here? I'm only 30 (soon to be 31) and I feel like my body is falling apart. I've been working night shift since college (about 10 years give or take). I've gained weight, can't sleep, my joints ache - i feel like a 90 year old!!! Advice?

    Worked 12 nights for over 2 decades. Loved it. And when I was your age nothing bothered me atall. Get off at 7 am and head across the street to the golf course, get in a fast 18, take a nap and do it all over. Or get off at 7 go to the health club. Or get off at 7 take my wife to breakfast. I just made it work. Trick is getting and keeping your activity level up. Come to think of it, I still do all those things and Im 2.5 decades farther along than you.
  9. by   BSNtobe2009
    Quote from NICU_3_RN
    thanks for your replies... i do work 12 hours at a time -and I can tell you that part of the reason i'm not doing well with it any more is because i'm lving with family at the moment, and htey're not doingg night shift - so it's hard. you can bet that they dont' understand taht i need to sleep during the day - and it's hard to have an actual life when my boyfriend is a regular 9-5er. so, on days i have to work, if i get 4.5 - 5 hours of sleep, im lucky... and then to acclimate when i'm off... its just so hard any more. I was doing it as a matter of choice for the larger shifft diff originally, but now that i'm getting older, honestly, it just sucks.

    as much as I don't know if I could ever work days... (ugh, 7am report time. ick)... at least then i'd have a regular schedule, you know?

    i just don't know.
    I think you just answered your own question.

    When people in the house cannot respect your sleep, you need to change. I think that is the bigger issue moreso than your age. You are severely sleep deprived and that will take a toll on your health.

    My mother worked the night-shift my entire life...can you imagine keeping a small child quiet? My father made good use of the library and the park, and we often took hikes in the woods. We were taught at a very young age to be careful when shutting doors, and all conversations were at a whisper. The only phone was out in the living room and we had it hooked up to a light (as you would for the deaf) so the ringing wouldn't wake her up each time some idiot telemarketer called.

    If you live with people that do not respect your sleep there isn't much you can do.
  10. by   crb613
    I am on nights...12hr shifts...I hate it! The 12's I like but I just cannot sleep more than a few hrs during the day....I feel horrible. Since going on noc's I am sick all the time (never was before) I could cry at the drop of a hat (not a cryer either). I now hate to go to work ( I loved it on days). I have had what I thought was a tooth ache since Thanksgiving....turns out its TMD caused from gritting my teeth & clenching my jaw while I am asleep!!! Geezh :uhoh21: I have missed 3 days of work since August & feel terrible about it, but I could not help it. In my previous job I worked over 3 years & never missed a day....so yes I would say nights are killing me!
  11. by   miracle1986
    HI NICU_3_RN....

    You know about our individual circadian rhythms.....yes (midnights) can have adverse ractions to your own body. IE: hypertension. My fave shift is afternoon, I thought I could do nightshift. SO, I tried it, because the skilled facility needed help on nights. It threw me into hypertension -- I have high b.p. to this day. We cannot go against our own specific body rhythm. Some people jump out of bed at 5 a.m. then cannot cope at 10 p.m. others are just the opposite. Look it up on the Web. Don't push yourself any harder. I feel bad for you. Take care of yourself.
  12. by   muffie
    night shift=evil

    did cromagnon man do night shift ? [nope]
  13. by   rn/writer
    Quote from muffie
    night shift=evil

    did cromagnon man do night shift ? [nope]
    Yeah, and where is he today?
  14. by   live4today
    Nightshift used to be my shift of preference (when I was younger), but cannot work that shift any longer. The last nightshift job I worked, I became severely ill within the first two weeks, and had to make a choice between my health/life, or leaving the job. I pleaded with HR to put me on days or eves, but they were too stubborn to do me a favor. That right there told me they use you up and spit you out on their terms, so....I resigned immediately, and yes...I was still sick when I resigned. I really hated giving up that job, but if I hadn't made that choice, I'd probably be dead today. Always choose life over death...no matter what.

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