Oh, shift work, I hate you one minute and love you the next. When I am working 9–5, I find myself reminiscing about my days off during the week when I would be one of the few people in an otherwise busy grocery store or shopping mall. When I am going on hour 11 of a more than 12-hour shift, I long to be at home, showered, and eating dinner at a normal hour.
One aspect of shift work I will never miss is the night shift—the dark side—as my coworkers used to affectionately call it. Those who loved the night shift said once you went over to the dark side, you could never return. I personally did not find that to be true. No, I was quite the opposite. I dreaded it at least a week before an actual night shift. I moped around the morning of a night shift, hesitant to leave the house because I thought I should be sleeping or relaxing. Sometimes I cried for no particular reason. Of course, I was usually normal by 7 pm when I actually showed up at work. But the problem wasn't the actual work from 7 pm to 7 am, it was the time leading up to the shift and the day after.
Ah, the day after. I am grateful I never had to drive home after a night shift. I have always been lucky enough to have taken public transportation, walked, or been picked up. I've even riden a bike home (very slowly). The feeling reminds me of being drunk, minus the fun time that was had the previous night. Although, I will say, some night shifts were actually really fun.
It turns out my comparison is not too far off. According to studies by the U.S. Army, staying awake for 17 hours is functionally equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. Staying awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. Most states say it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher—pretty scary stuff.
I always ponder solutions to the night shift. Is there one? I know I am eternally grateful to those nurses who can tolerate the night shift or who even prefer it to the day shift. If it weren't for them, I would have been responsible for many more 7 pm–7 am shifts. How do you feel about the night shift?