Shifting Sands

I stumbled across an interesting discussion about the perils and woes of shift working and sleep deficiency today. How it brought back sore memories.
So many of those comments regarding shift work were familiar to me. I worked shifts in the print trade for around twelve years and I would never do them again. A large part of the problem was switching between shift patterns and attempting to adapt physically, mentally and socially.

One of the problems for me personally was an inability to get a good quality and quantity of sleep on night shifts. I used to dread that pattern coming around because absolutely nothing worked for me. I’d turn in at 7am and be wide awake by 10.30am as frustrated as hell and exhausted. To rub it, in I’d probably been struggling to stay awake whilst at work.

On mornings, (5.50am-1.30pm), I’d burn the candle at both ends. I figured I was always going to be exhausted anyway so I might as well go out and enjoy myself and take four hours sleep before heading off to work.

I left shift working behind four years ago now and am much healthier; I have better concentration levels and the time and inclination to eat better. Although I drink tea and coffee it’s not the levels I used to just attempting to stay awake and lucid.

Socialising was tricky. It was problematic enough when I worked treble shifts – mornings/nights/afternoons but when my company reverted to ‘continental’ (that’s a laugh) shifts it was just hopeless trying to plan anything.

Apart from the theory about shift’s life-shortening properties this had a huge affect on my attitude towards shift working) there was also research to show a good correlation between shift working and a higher divorce rate. I can easily believe this. I do recall the days when I came home at 6.30pm after a 5.50am start and I wasn’t really worth trying to talk to for a little while after getting home.

An abiding memory for me was visiting the canteen at 3 or 4 in the morning and seeing that sea of ashen, grey faces sitting, hardly talking, and longing for 6am to come around. Wishing their lives away. I always thought that a great shame for them and for me personally.

For me the people that choose or unfortunately have to work shifts deserve every bit of the premium it attracts. Good luck to them. Not for me – never again.

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