How To Survive the Midnight Shift
- Working in aviation has several pros and cons. Among the long list of things that are on this is:
Working the midnight shift.
Some will find working the midnight shift to be a pro. But let's be realistic here! To the lot of us, working the midnight shift is a con! It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. In fact, the majority of those within aircraft maintenance, primarily those who choose to work in commercial aviation, work the midnight shift. Why? Because most aircraft do not fly at night. During the aircraft’s downtime is when the bulk of its daily maintenance is done. So it only makes sense that the majority of mechanics work nights.
So the question that stands to be answered is: Does it get easier?
From my experience of working the midnight shift (I have been working midnights for the past 6 years), the answer to this question is:
But! You do get used to it! or rather, you learn to accept it! The raccoon eyes become a part of your uniform. (Little tip. Using the Under Eye Patches - 24K Gold Under Eye Mask before work can help reduce or even alleviate the raccoon eyes… you’re welcome!)
Let’s all face it; working midnights is hard! Not just on you physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It can lead to depression, weight gain, relationship issues, and these are only some things amongst the many that it can do.
Although it might not get easier, there are certain things you can do that I have learned that can help make the transition to working nights not as hard.
This is MY how-to guide to surviving the midnight shift…
Set a Routine/ Wake-Sleep Schedule for Yourself
This is very important! Hence, the reason it is number 1!
When you work midnights, creating a schedule helps keep your body feeling “normal” or as normal as it can be on an unnatural schedule. It is easy to get home, fall asleep, and then sleep straight through until it is time for work again. By doing this, it can actually have the opposite effect of making you feel rested. It can leave you feeling groggy and more tired, potentially leading a person to experience or create different Human Factors.
Therefore, choose a schedule that works for you! For example, some people like to get home and stay awake for a couple of hours. During this time, they do what they need to, whether it’s going to the gym or preparing themselves for the their next shift, and then head to sleep late in the morning or early afternoon and wake up right before work. However, I am different. I prefer to get home and go straight to bed. I then wake up early and accomplish anything and everything I need to before work.
This is what a typical workday work-sleep schedule looks like for me:
9 AM: Arrive home
9:10 AM Walk my dog, feed him
9:20 AM Shower
9:45 AM Play with my dog
10:15 AM Bedtime!
4:30 PM Wake up
In between this time and leaving for work, I accomplish what I need to. Whether it is school, gym, cooking, cleaning, taking my dog to the dog park, fulfilling FixFlyTravel shop orders, etc.
8:30 PM Leave for work
I’m not saying that I stick to this schedule every day, but I try to! By sticking to this schedule, I have found that I feel more accomplished and all-around (meaning physically, mentally, and emotionally), better!
Invest in Blackout Curtains or Blackout Blinds
Working during the night time and sleeping during the day time is NOT normal! Our bodies were not designed to sleep during the day. In fact, in an article By Katherine Kam on WebMD, she speaks to a sleep expert Wesley Elon Fleming, MD, and he states, “Even if your eyes are closed, the sunlight coming into the room tells your brain that it’s daytime. Yet your body is exhausted, and you’re trying to sleep. That discrepancy ... is not a healthy thing for the body to be exposed to.” (Source)
Suppose you are fortunate enough to sleep through anything, lucky you! But if you are like me, were sleeping during the day, let alone sleeping with light, is difficult, invest in blackout curtains or blinds.
I actually have a set of both! Blackout curtains and blinds to drown out the light.
The best part is that you do not have to break the bank to afford them. In my bedroom, I use the Redi Shade Paper Blackout Shade and the NICETOWN Blackout Curtain Panels Window Draperies. Since I rent, I think these blinds are awesome! No drilling required! You simply cut them to your window size and then peel the tape and stick them, and you’re done! The blackout curtains add to the darkness, blocking out any extra light that might seep in from behind the blinds. By using these, my room has gone from bright white to pitch black! I love it!
However, I will say that these blinds are not very durable because they are paper. Therefore, if you are planning to be opening the window often, I would suggest reframing from using them. Too much movement could tare them. They are best if you plan to stick and forget them.
Who really has the time to exercise when you’re working a midnight shift? Well, it might be challenging to find the time, but if you make it part of your wake-sleep schedule, makes it easier.
Believe it or not, exercising can help increase your energy. It also allows your body to release chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help you deal with stress and reduce your risk of depression. (Source)
And that is only one of the benefits of exercising! It can also help with your ability to sleep. In all, adding exercise to your day can help you feel better and help prevent a lot of the health issues that can occur from working the midnight shift as you age.
Keep a Healthy Diet and Drink Water
It is essential to try and maintain a healthy diet and drinking water when working the midnight shift. I know it is hard; trust me, I know! However, something I have found that helps with this is meal prepping at the beginning of the week. It’s funny when you work the night shift; there never seem to be enough hours in a day even if you create a wake-sleep schedule. But by incorporating meal prepping into the beginning of the week, it gives you one less thing to think about the rest of the week, allowing you to take the extra time you have and use it for other things.
If meal prepping is not an option, you could consider a food service that delivers healthier food to your door, rather than the constant junk food or eating out.
Your diet plays a massive part in the amount of energy you have and also how you sleep. Therefore, this means not eating a heavy meal before bed or eating so close to your bedtime.
Remember, eating a healthy diet allows your body to naturally receive the vitamins and nutrients it needs, to survive the night.
Due to the inconsistency in our exposure to the sun, consider incorporating Vitamin D into your day. Since our body does not naturally produce Vitamin D, unless we eat food with vitamin D, such as fish, red meat, yolks, and dairy, we may lack the required allotment our body needs to function properly. Implementing a Vitamin D supplement into your day can help decrease the chances of a vitamin D deficiency, and a lack of vitamin D can lead to numerous health issues.
Vitamin B6 has been known to be an essential vitamin for midnight workers. They help maintain good health and wellbeing by playing a huge role in the processes your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. (Source) It “produces serotonin, which improves one’s mood, and norepinephrine, which helps you cope with stress.” (Source)
Multivitamins are a great way to cover your bases when it comes to taking vitamins. They help alleviate the need to take numerous pills and compacts them into one. It is true that when your body is deficient with any vitamin, it can have an adverse effect on us, causing a lack of sleep, creating Human Factors, and issues to our overall health. Therefore, multivitamins can help.
I will be the first to say that I do not like nor do I use melatonin. I find that it leaves me groggy and makes it difficult for me to keep to my wake-sleep schedule. However, it does help your body rest and get sleep.
Rather than taking melatonin, I would recommend incorporating tea into your sleep routine that can help you relax—for example, chamomile, valerian, or lavender teas. Drinking a cup about 15 to 20 minutes before bed can help you relax and help you fall asleep without vitamins.
To help me remeber to take my vitamins, I use a pill organizer container. It just makes it easier and puts them all in one place instead of going from bottle to bottle.
Remember, vitamins are meant to work hand-in-hand with your healthy diet, not to be used as a supplement to healthy eating.
Also, make sure to consult with your doctor about which vitamins are best for you and your health.
Take a Break
If you are in a position to take time off, do it! Use your time off. I have found that it has helped me recalibrate myself. For that reason, if it is possible to do, every 4 months or so, I try and take at least a week off. Typically, I use this time to travel. However, even if this time is not used for traveling, allowing my body to have a regular schedule, even if for a short time, really helps!
Coffee or Tea
Ok, let’s start this off by stating that incorporating a ton of coffee into your night isn’t healthy. However, it is true that between tea and coffee, especially coffee, it is a staple of aircraft maintenance. Especially here in South Florida, where
Cuban coffee rules!
Starting your day off with a cup helps. However, be aware of how much you drink and what time you drink it at. The idea is to go home and sleep! Not go home and be wired!
I hope this helps! Remember, with everything, you will find what works best for you. It takes a lot of trial and error before you become adjusted to the life of a night shift mechanic. But you can do it!
I’m work in line maintenance 7 year. My night shift is12 hours. Better idea nothing coffee during night shift. Sometimes black tea. Only tea have strong coffeins effect.
Aluminum Foil blocks all sun light from a window just fine. May piss off your neighbors or that 1 guy or gal in an HOA situation but you have to do you. Most folks will understand. My bedroom was like a cave, completely dark at high noon.
Brian Smith on