Kiran Khannas a Nuclear Engineer, a die-hard blogger, and writes an article on personality/skills development for the leadership roles.
I have been in Night Shift for 11 long years while operating the Nuclear Reactors. My job expects me to remain equally active as a Day Time, take logical actions to ensure safe operation of the Nuclear Reactor, and shows 100% attentiveness for a quick restart after a trip to prevent 36 hrs poisoning of the Reactor which results in million $ loss of production. Tremendous responsibility as a Control Engineer, which I could not cope.
It was never a peaceful journey for me with every day a struggle and my health not supporting me. I took tons of caffeine, sitting in a glittering light of control room, starring endlessly to the operator console, waiting for an alarm. I started losing interest in my career and entering the zone of depression.
My career, health both were struggling with each other, and I become scared of the difficulties to cope up with the Night Shift. I tried hard to stay healthy, have a healthy mindset, and maintain routine, but nothing seems to work. I was about to crash.
I knew, if not taking charge of my life, it had been killing to survive night shifts. I started understanding the phenomena of mother nature design of bodies to be active during the day and rest at night. When I was working the night shift, and my body’s natural circadian rhythm gets disrupted, so causing it to become out of sync.
All I know is the circadian clock is a small part of my brain that monitors how much light you see each moment. When the light goes away (at nighttime), the brain releases chemicals that give my body a signal to fall asleep. When the light becomes brighter, my brain releases chemicals that help to keep you awake.
At that point of time, in early 90s internet was rare and considered luxury difficult to effort. The Night Shifts were killing me, and I need to find a solution to know how to deal with them.
I went to CyberCafe, around $1 for 30 mins surfing.
Does Night Shift Shorten Your Life?
In 2015, an international team of researchers studied women working rotating night shifts for five or more years, and found they carried an 11% greater mortality risk from all causes, and a 19% greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) death. Women on rotating night shifts for 15 years or more were 23% more likely to die from CVD, and 25% more likely to die from lung cancer.
Why Working at Night Boosts the Risk of Early Death?
After 22 years, researchers found that the women who worked on rotating night shifts for more than five years were up to 11% more likely to have died early compared to those who never worked these shifts. In fact, those working for more than 15 years on rotating night shifts had a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease than nurses who only worked during the day. Surprisingly, rotating night shifts were also linked to a 25% higher risk of dying from lung cancer and 33% greater risk of colon cancer death. The increased risk of lung cancer could be attributed to a higher rate of smoking among night shift workers, says Schernhammer.
These stats were scary, and so I took this seriously. I pick circadian clock from my one-dollar investment on surfing. Further surfing is more disappointing, so I decided not to go further and spent $.
First thing I did was to understand my body response. I went to the nearby free municipal library and started reading by Circadian Clock.
Understand Circadian Rhythms
I took ten days off from my shift to experiment.
To begin with, I started observing my activities during my day. I rise at 6:00 am what I had seen was a sharp rise in blood pressure because of cortisol spikes, and the majority of strokes happen in the morning.
The biologically based phenomenon my melatonin secretion stops in early morning hours and goes to poop at about 6:30 am. A mega poop in the morning is essential, otherwise I take home remedy of drinking I litre of lukewarm water first thing in the morning.
At around 10 am, testosterone spike goes up that makes me high alert till the afternoon, and cruising along with good coordination fast reaction time. Good cardiovascular movement and melatonin kicks, and things slow down and then in the midnight, so my body is a program to do all these things during the day, and this affects me when I go for the night shift. And, this is what I need to simulate in the night.
At least seven hours of sleep per 24 hours that will help me cope with my circadian rhythm and sometimes that’s not possible, but that’s the ideal recommendation.
To do that, I make my room dark with zero exposure black chart papers on each hole I could trace where the possibility of light sneaking in. You can use blackout curtains.
What I understood by observing my body clock -is to shift the body’s circadian clock. It better tolerates working at night and sleeping during the day. I synchronized by wall clock to show 6 pm at 6 am. It helps me to send a message to my mind: time to sleep.
I prepared my shift schedule, made some hand notes to follow, and I promised to myself to stick to this schedule.
1. Avoid Full-Spectrum Sunlight (7 -7:30 am)
I used to fool my body to tell this is nighttime, and I need to sleep. I want to go to sleep as soon as I can. After a night shift ends, so after I get out of a night shift and while I was heading home and I knew if 15 minutes of full-spectrum sunlight gets into my brain. It would reset my circadian Clock so going home after a night shift was a real trick and tried to avoid both full-spectrum sunlight. I sat in the middle seat of the van and trying to get to bed soonest. That will help me cope with the circadian rhythm disruption. I started wearing a welder glass as I stepped out of the control room. Glass helps me not to get exposed.
2. Keep Break Fast Ready (7:30- 9 am)
Eggs, bread, and a little of Milk was my super cool breakfast, ready within 10 mins. I avoid taking a bath, but sometimes I took to get the smelly sweat out of the way. I decided no more caffeine at this point. I used to take my breakfast in my DARKROOM, ready to embrace me with sleep. I used to keep my bed makeup before I go to the night shift to avoid morning hassles. I strictly work with my clock, no later than 9 am I was at the bed. There was no internet or phones, so it was easy for me. Now, my advice is not to look at phones or news or newspaper. I used to play a white noise CD to call sleep. You can find this on YouTube.
3. Always Use Ear Plugs
I used excellent quality earplugs (thanks to my company) which helps me to avoid high decibel noise. Now, a day you need to ensure your android is in silent mode and your Door Bell connection is off. I used to keep a hand made notice of “Do not Disturb” to avoid any hassles for the one who tries to reach me. If you have AC, keep it at 21C temperature. A comfortable temperature to induce sleep. I had a noiseless fan that helps me to cool.
4. Keep Informed Your Near One
I used to stay alone, but I made it a point of informing my neighbours, friends and family of night shifts days well in advance. Nowadays, you can keep the voice note on your mobile. Ensure to keep your mobile out of the room, preferably in your lobby if you do not want to keep it in silent mode, reduce the volume for sure.
5. Use Sleep Mask
I prepared a Sleep Mask with quality black cloth and kept it on my face. And this has ensured a good sleep. Nowadays, you can simulate darkness by using a sleep mask to keep daylight from hitting your eyes. Blackout-style face mask available in the market will do a job at blocking light.
6. 7 hrs Sleep (9:30 am to 4:30 pm)
Ensure you empty your bowl well to avoid any biological disturbance. Use White Noise to induce sleep. Do not get up in between. It is the most critical aspect I learned in my 11 years of Night Shift Schedule. I used to keep my father’s alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30 pm. Say "No" to oversleeping.
7. Happening & Crazy Fun Time (4:30 to 6:30 pm)
It is the time you have to make it enjoying night shifts schedule. I used to hit the gym and do swimming all days of my Night Shift. It refreshes me. Keep time check this is critical.
8. Shopping Time (6:30–7 pm)
This is another pleasant habit I used to do to make it a point to go out to the nearby market to have a daily grocery. This refreshes me seeing people around. Little of socializing will keep me in the loop of my near ones. You can visit your friend or call at your home for a cup of tea. This refreshes me and helped me be in touch with my surroundings.
9. Cooking & Bath (7–7:30 pm)
This is the time I used to pamper myself with lavish dinner preparations. I make it a point to have something good to eat and cherish. I took a bath and do a bit of meditation to keep my mind and body healthy.
10. Dinner & Walk (7:30–8:30 pm)
This time I took my dinner and go for a refreshing walk to digest the heavy meal.
11. Quick Nap (8:30- 10 pm)
My research shows a quick nap is a must-have to stay active in your night shift. Do not go in a deep sleep. You can have soft music playing in the background and take a nap, not beyond 10 pm. The alarm clock is critical to have.
12. Get Ready For Shift (10–10:30 pm)
I used to take a bath again, and that was my choice. I do not have any recommendation during this time. I used to take some eatables with me, since this helped you keep active. This can be protein nuts and a coffee.
My Shift Van arrives sharp 10:30 pm.
The night shift works well for me with this schedule. I look and feel younger than anyone else I knew at my age and don’t have any problems working the night shift, but there were few people I work with whom night shift without strict schedule just not suited to working nights. Some have trouble staying awake at night, then can’t sleep during the day. After 11 years of shift work, I would say it affects everyone differently but above schedule work for me.
Follow the schedule strictly
Same routine every day will help your body clock to learn your schedule and adopt.
Have dark eye goggles, earplugs and eye mask.
Minimum use of the Internet during the daytime of Night Shift.
The exercise routine is important
Make NIGHT SHIFT enjoyable.
You can further read https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/night-work by American Psychological Association
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 kiran khannas