It’s 9:00 p.m. You wake up from the “nap” you started at 5:00 p.m. You look at the alarm clock on your dresser. You tell yourself you should stay up, don’t drift away back into tranquil slumber. Why go back to bed when you have to be at work in an hour and a half?
You get up, irritated probably, you wash up and get dressed for work, regretting everything you’ve never done to get you to this point. There will be some sighs, some grunts, maybe even a curse word. If you’re living with a significant other, you kiss them goodbye. If not, you shut the lights off in a cold, empty home (I’ve been there for both situations).
You get in your car, you try and play some upbeat music to get you pumped. Meanwhile, your mind is racing, questioning your decision to do this job. You beat yourself up, watching other drivers on the road probably heading home after a long day. You eventually get to work. You take a deep breath, knowing it’ll work out at the end of the day/night/day.
And you count down till your days off when you can sleep like a normal human being.
Plenty of cities specialize in the graveyard shift, including and especially Las Vegas. It’s a transient town full of 24/7 activity. I’ve been doing a grave shift for six months now as a news producer. There’s no easy way to get used to graves. But maybe I can help those out there by shedding light on the pros and cons.
First, some backstory. I took the position to switch careers. Closer field to one that would be better for my skills. And in a way, it has. The hours, though, are brutal. 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., midnight to 8, sometimes 10–6. Why would anyone do this?
For me, it was the best available job opportunity when I took it. Pay is decent and it’s an interesting field. But the hours….
Just because other people do graves doesn’t mean it’s easy. You have to redo you entire sleep schedule. You nap during the day. If you don’t have black out curtains, get them ASAP. For me, I went 5 months without black out curtains, splitting up my sleep time between a 3 hour nap after work and a 5–6 hour one before work. It’s brutal. You feel like your days are restricted to just a few hours. My system isn’t perfect, but it’s worked for me so far.
Depending on your shift, kiss social engagements goodbye. My days off were Monday and Tuesday. Y’know, the days where EVERYONE goes out to party.
My meals during my work days consist of a pseudo breakfast on my shift, a bigger breakfast at home, and a lunch/dinner thing later in the day. Could be a late lunch or an early dinner, but not both. I usually skip one of those meals altogether.
I tell people not to call/text me after 5:00 p.m., because I’ll be asleep. I’ll wake up to messages/missed calls, feeling like I’m way behind on what’s going on in the world.
Admittedly, there are not too many pros to working graves. I will say, they do make you re-evaluate your life and how you treat it. For instance, I felt so unhealthy when I started, I knew I needed to balance the sleep issues and eating problems with something positive. So I started working with a trainer to boost me up, and it’s been great. No, it’s not an end-all cure, but I’m stronger and healthier than before; it at least counteracts the negative effects of an inconsistent sleep schedule.
Also, for me, at least, I get off between 6–8:00 a.m. so it feels like I have my whole day ahead of me. Moreover, I genuinely like the people I work with, so at least when I come in, there’s a good working environment there to make things a little better.
Not all grave shifts are created equally. I used to spend some nights moving TVs around at Best Buy. Others spend their early mornings in a toll booth, no one to talk to but drivers for maybe 30 seconds. Here in Vegas, you have clubs, restaurants, a downtown experience that never sleeps. Those might be exciting, but that’s if you’re lucky.
If you’re considering doing graves, ask yourself if it’s necessary. If you need a job and need to make money, absolutely. Those factors trump everything. But if you can be choosy, consider your options.
Look, at the end of the day, I chose this. I don’t blame anyone else. It’s not permanent, but it’s how it is for now. Writing about it is cathartic, but not a solution. If anything, it should shed some light on a type of job schedule that isn’t normal and never will be. Just because others can do it and do it longer than you, doesn’t make it ideal.