Perhaps a poor title given my profession but whatever. Deal with it.
I was scared at first. I prepared in every way I could: a special “dawn alarm clock” to help trick my circadian tendencies, a sleep mask, three different kinds of ear plugs, an air filter for white noise, and a mini pharmacy of sedatives (melatonin, benadryl, muscle relaxers, valium).
I believe I’m one of the lucky few whose body does not seem to reject the idea of night work. I sleep fine during the day, I stay awake all night, I can nap the hell out of off days; it seems to work for me so far. This is a relief.
How does my sleep cycle work? The trick seems to be forcing yourself to be tired for limited periods of time, whether that’s due to getting up early or staying up late in prepartion for a work or off day. I’ve heard some people just can’t do nights. Period. They put on weight, they can’t sleep, they break out in horrible acne; they essentially become monsters. It’s one of those things you just have to try to know.
Here’s some hypothetical schedules to consider:
Work three nights in a row (Fri-Sat-Sun).
Thurs night I will stay up as late as possible. If I make it past 3AM, I can usually sleep from 3AM until Friday afternoon. If I make it to only to midnight, I force myself to get up at 5/6AM Friday, stay up a few hours, then pass out from 10AM-4PMish. Come home Saturday morning, bed by 9AM, sleep until 4/5PM, go to work Sat night and repeat trend on Sunday.
Work two nights, off one night, then back the next night (Fri-Sat-Mon).
This schedule is kinda sucky. You basically keep the same schedule as the “three in a row” deal. You just have to figure out something to keep you occupied on Sunday night!
Work, off a few nights, then back again (Mon-Fri-Sat)
This is where I had to do some trial and error. I thought maybe sleeping during the day on my off days (Tues/Wed/Thurs) would work but that’s was a terrible idea. I felt drugged, physically ill to the point of throwing up. Instead, after working Monday night, I would go to bed from 9AM-noon on Tuesday, then force myself to get up for the rest of the day. I’d go to bed pretty early that night and wake up at a normal time on Wednesday (and the proceeding off days). Works beautifully, aside from being a little tired on Tuesday.