Night Shift Problems

A few weeks ago I had a small meltdown when I discovered that the smartband I purchased to monitor my sleep, well, didn’t. It, like most smartbands, isn’t calibrated to measure daytime sleeping. It made me realise that a lot of people don’t know about life on the night shift, so I figured I’d write about it. I work on a rotating shift pattern, roughly from 10pm to 6am. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.


If you work the night shift, you will never remember what day it is ever again. The words “today” and “tomorrow” lose meaning. You will scowl at those who use the phrase “X sleeps until Y” because it is meaningless to you, the night shift worker. I have solved this issue by changing all my clocks to 24hr display and where possible, include the day and date.

2. Good morning, and if I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!

What is the right greeting when you wake up? Good morning, right? What if it is 7pm? What is the meal that you have when you wake up, breakfast? Is it still breakfast at 7pm? Can you eat dinner at 7am?

3. You cannot eat dinner at 7am.

You are forced to cook for yourself when you work the night shift. One of the downsides to getting home at 7am or earlier is that nowhere is open for dinner. Oh, there are places that are open for breakfast, if you’re lucky, but they only serve breakfast. I went to a local cafe to grab a sandwich when I got in from work one morning, only to find that they don’t switch on their panini maker until 10am. Subway only does breakfast subs before 10:30am. A main meal first thing in the morning? I’m a monster. I’ve solved this issue with supermarket ready meals, which is the closest I can get to food cooked by other people when I’m too tired to cook myself.

4. Alone. Always alone.

Unless you live with and are close to other night shift workers, you will have no social life. Very few people are up for grabbing a drink at 8am. The friends you did have will slowly abandon you, they stop calling for fear of waking you up, as they don’t remember your shift pattern. You are awake when everyone is asleep, so your community becomes Australians and the US West Coast on social media. You’re asleep when everyone is awake, so instead of watching situations develop, you wake up to ALL OF THE NEWS. It’s overwhelming. I have found no solution to this. I’m so desperately lonely.

5. Overpaying for transport.

Yeah! Here’s one that I’m serious about and would like TFL and the Night Czar to take a look at. When you work the night shift, you end up spending more on public transport. Most people can go to work on a One Day Travelcard, but night shift workers need two because the “day” changes whilst they are at work. You can’t use the Oyster daily-cap system either, because that resets mid-shift. Possible solution: changing the One Day Travelcard so that it expires 24hrs from purchase, not at the end of the day (or 4:30am the next morning, whatever!). Calculate the Oyster daily caps from the time of first tap-in, not 4:30am.


I remember lying down one morning last year only to be woken up by drilling outside my window as the roadworks were being done on my road. Yeah… no. Just no. There is nothing more frustrating than noise when you’re trying to get to sleep. Roadworkers never seem to give notice for the work that they do, they just start drilling. Same goes for the council who mow the grass verges nearby. Never any warning or alerts. Possible solution: WARNINGS AND ALERTS! Be like the binmen. Have a rota, a timetable, a schedule. Let me know when you’ll be there in advance, so I know to try and sleep elsewhere. Put up a sign that says “these potholes will be repaired on…” and all local night shift workers will thank you greatly. And those people who just want to avoid loud noises too.

Don’t get me wrong, some things about the night shift are lovely. I like the quiet. I like the dark. (My body doesn’t, but I’ve got vitamin D supplements for that…) But if there was a little more consideration for all those who get the world ready for when the Day People wake up, that’d be great.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 9am, so I’m off to bed.

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