Help! Should I Stick to a Night Shift Schedule on Days Off?

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Is there a benefit to remaining a night owl on my days off? Or, am I better placed both physically and socially (depending on your friends weekend lifestyle), transitioning back to a timeframe that’s in sync with those who work “normal” schedules?

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Should I stick to a night shift sleeping schedule on my days off? Permanent night shift workers should stay on a night shift sleeping schedule as it provides consistency for your body clock. Going to bed at 3am and waking at 12pm works well on days off. Rotating shift workers should stick to a sleeping pattern that’s conducive with their future shifts.

If we keep changing our sleeping pattern, our body’s internal biological clock doesn’t have time to adjust. Let’s look into what this means for your health, body clock and social life and explore what we can do about it.

Best Practice for Night Shift Workers During Days Off

Is there anything wrong with switching your sleeping schedule back to day-time hours on your days off, when working night shift?

Yes and No. I hate that answer so let me explain.

As an ER nurse, to say I always remain on a night shift schedule on my days off would be a lie. I work a rotating roster so that doesn’t work at all for me.

However, did my husband Dan stick to a night shift schedule on his days off when working a permanent night shift roster? Again. No. But he probably should have.

So, is there anything wrong with switching back to normal hours on your days off?

It’s funny how varied the opinions are depending on your audience.

Your Nana who’s invited you and all her favorite people out to lunch for her birthday has no problem with you making the switch. And will likely judge you for thinking otherwise.

However, the professionals at the sleep labs have other ideas…

And the other night shift workers in your office will say, “I refuse to sleep my days away”.

Who the heck are you supposed to listen to!?

Issues With Switching Back to “Normal Hours”

Here are two main issues with switching back to day time ‘normal hours’ on your days off after night shift

  1. It’s harder for your body to adjust to this new schedule. So you could have a tough time sleeping, lack productivity and feel like your energy has been zapped away.
  2. Risk chronic long term health effects due to sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Let’s explore each of these points a little further.

It’s harder for your body clock to adjust with the constant swaps from night shift to day shift

You may already know this, but our body clocks are triggered by the light and dark signals.

As we are programmed to be asleep during the night and be awake during the day, we’re confusing everything.

Our sleep hormones, namely melatonin, don’t know what to do.

Our stress hormone cortisol is up the spout and our body temperature, which normally cools during the night to preserve energy, is throwing its hands in the air wondering what the heck is going on!

An interesting study I checked out recently states that the shorter the time in-between ‘swaps,’ the harder it is for your body to adjust.

Rotational shift workers probably have the hardest time here because there is no system. There is no way for your body to know what’s to come. 

Night Shift Workers Body Clock Adjustment

How Long Does It Really Take for Your Body to Get Into a Rhythm?

I’m talking about whether I’m switching from night shift to day shift or day night to night shift. Sometimes I wish it would hurry up, especially when working rotational shifts as an ER nurse!

The truth though is this tricky adjustment time is different for everyone. Again, I normally hate this answer; so let me dive in a little deeper here.

How we behave and the things we do while on nights are all different.

Some people exercise and some don’t. Some people eat terribly, while others enjoy the Keto diet (click to explore) or try intermittent fasting (again, click to check out our sister post) to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

You’ll even come across people who have chronic health issues like obesity, smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish and have been keeping this routine for 30 years, all while work night shift.

See how it’s hard to give a straight answer?

But what we all have in common is one thing.

When we work night shift, our bodies don’t really like it. But what it hates, even more, is constantly swapping back and forth from day shift to night shift and visa versa.…

Moral of this part of the night shift story. Stick to the night shift schedule for the sake of your body clock.

Help! Should I Stick to a Night Shift Schedule on Days Off? | Construction working sitting outside on their break |

Maintaining Night Shift Workers Health

We risk chronic long term health effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue – if we alter our sleep cycle too often…

You may have felt jet lag before, right? If not, I’m sure you’ve heard it kind of stinks.

I often hear my colleagues say they felt jet-lagged after switching from night shift to day shift hours on their days off.

Why? Because they wanted to go to a friends birthday lunch and visit the morning market and really do anything besides going to sleep during the day again.

The difference though between jet lag and shift work is that shift work is not a temporary environmental change.

Therefore, chronic or long term issues can happen to our poor circadian rhythm (body clock) as a result of jumping around so much.

We’re unfortunately at a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, plus other nasty health-related items purely due to working night shift. Read – Is Night Shift Bad for You? 11 Truths Uncovered

I’m not here to scare you, because I’m doing this too.

And it’s important to remember that not all night shift workers do get sick or are affected by this night shift schedule.

But we do have to be a little more conscious about our health than say our 9-5 buddies. I know, it’s totally unfair but we don’t really have another choice if you want to stick with your current gig.

The advantages of working the night shift schedule are huge and can make all this health stuff worth the trouble.

I’ve grown to tolerate night shift which we go in detail here – 9 Myths About Night Shift Jobs You Probably Still Believe and you can too, if you find the right balance of sleep and play.

Sleeping Tips for Night Shift Workers on Your Days off

Sleeping while the rest of the riff-raff (…we really do love you!) is home can be hard and almost impossible if you don’t work together.

Not all family members will understand why you’re still sleeping on your days off, putting you in an awkward position.

But stick with it if the method is working for you (and indirectly works for them too).

Here are some techniques we recommend to sleep on night shift during your days off: 

Move Your Bedroom  

If your room is located directly near the kitchen, kids play area, basketball ring or theatre room, I suggest moving things around.

Invest in either an inexpensive blow-up mattress like the Intex Classic Downy Airbed SetOpens in a new tab. (Amazon link) or even a higher quality blow up mattress like the King Koil QUEEN SIZE Luxury Raised Air MattressOpens in a new tab. (very popular on Amazon) if this is a long term game for you.

Set up your make-shift bedroom somewhere a little quieter, like the basement, and enjoy the silence.

Be on the Same Page With Your Family (+ and Pets!)

Use Google Sheets or the app to organize and sync your schedules together.

Give your family the chance to say, “Hey dad’s asleep today… I’m going out!”

Be smart and on the lookout for public events your family will love where they will want to leave the house. 

Free fundraising events, dog shows, giveaways at the market or shopping malls – anything which makes being at home seem boring.

Facebook events pages are great for this type of research or try a simple google search of your area.

Related post: Owning a Dog as a Shift Worker: Clever Tips to Make It Work

Use Sleep Aids 

This may be an obvious suggestion to some and not for others. If you’re not onboard or need some inspiration, here are our favorite sleep aid recommendations.

Click on the image below to explore our shift work tools page with our favorite sleep aids!

Sleep in Your Car 

I know a few people who have some ace setup’s in the back of their cars, complete with a small mattress, pillows and a blanket!

Park in the garage or somewhere away from the traffic like under a tree for some sun protection.

If constantly moving your family out of the family home is not an option this may work. But just remember not to park in a tow-away zone.

Also, don’t forget to do a bit of exercise, stretching or yoga if cooped up in the same position all day!

Jumping rope could be a quick solution if you don’t have time for the gym or home workout. Click the link to get a rope suited for your budget and suss out the legit health benefits.  

Related post: 7 Essential Night Shift Tips: Making the Impossible a Reality

Sleep Somewhere Else

This may seem extreme but do you have a friend who’s on holidays who needs a house sitter? 

Does somebody you know live in a secluded place with a second story where you could make yourself comfortable?

Think outside the square if your city apartment is not ‘cutting the mustard.’  

Ask Around at Work for Alternative Sleeping Options…

Is there somebody (or even a friend of a friend) who needs their house sat? Stick up a flyer, send an email and ask around to see if anybody can help you out.

Supplying a gift can help butter them up!

Help! Should I Stick to a Night Shift Schedule on Days Off_ _ _ dad with child outside
Just because you work night shift, doesn’t mean you miss out on the important stuff

Social life, Night Shift and Days Off

Being an active parent, attentive spouse and a supportive friend pretty much summarise why we switch back to day time hours, right?

I get it.

Here are some ways you can be both kind to your stubborn body clock and your special relationships.  

Go to Bed at Around 4 Am and Wake up at Noon

Yes, you still miss out on your breakfast dates but you get to enjoy lunch, dinner and the entire evening with your family.

With this method, you’re able to visit the shops, enjoy some exercise in the sunshine and pop in to see your friends at a reasonable hour… and still get 8 hours sleep!

Keeping a regular routine is what your body wants. This may look strange to everyone else but it’s the regularity that your body thrives on. 

After Working Only a Few Shifts (For Rotational Shift Workers) Stay Awake

Once your final shift is over, don’t go to sleep straight away and instead stay up all day and get to sleep early around 7-8.30pm. Some people find this useful to re-adjust quickly.

On the flip side, on my last night, I often sleep for 3-4 hours and get up around 1 pm. I go to the gym/walk, do my jobs, cook dinner and get into bed at 9 pm. (Ha, who am I kidding, it’s more like 7 pm!). 

This seems to work for me and gives me time to spend with Dan and my friends. 

Related post about rotating shift work: Essential Guide to Working a Rotating Shift Schedule +VIDEO all about rotating shift work

Take The Lead 

You can’t miss out on a social event you plan! Set up a Facebook event or simply text a few friends and do something social.

Check out that ‘new’ place for dinner and do something fun during the evening like mini golf or teppanyaki.

You set the time. You set the place. There is no missing out if you use this trick. 

Use Night In Boxes

Everything you need for a date, (or night with your kids) delivered to your door. It’s fabulous. Check it out by clicking here.

Group Your Shifts Together

Again for rotational shift workers – can you do a block of nights for maybe a few weeks or even a month or two? It will allow your body to predict what’s going on allowing for better, deeper sleep.

This means you have more to give physically, emotionally and mentally to your loved ones.

Working such a big chunk of nights can be a big shift in what you’re used to, but it can work brilliantly for some families and night owl individuals.

Related posts about mastering your roster:

Vacations or >4 days Off

Most permanent night shift workers don’t get more than 4 days off in a row unless on vacation.

However, when they do, I often hear people switching back to somewhat normal hours to really enjoy their holiday.

If you find yourself with a big break of more than 4 (even sometimes 3 days) switching back to day shift might be worth it.

Use the Light to Your Advantage

Your sleep hormones like melatonin, function pretty much based on which light and dark signals it picks up. 

During the day we need the light in order to reset our body clocks, but at night it confuses us into thinking it’s still day time.

Since jumping on the blue light glasses bandwagon we have seen HUGE improvements in how quickly we are falling to sleep and therefore how energic and productive we are during the day.

Swanwick Sleeps, “Swannies” are our favorite blue light blocking glasses and we wear them every night with amazing results. If blocking out the blue light is a totally new concept, we get back to basics in the article below. 

Take a look by clicking on the images below.

Explore our shift work tools page HERE and see our favorite blue light blocking glasses and why we LOVE them!

But What Do I Do If I Still Want to Swap Back to Normal Hours on My Days off From Night Shift?

Oh, you stubborn thing! How did I know you were going to ask that?

I get it. You’re sick of missing out and you need not only some sunshine but your family and your mates.

If you are going to switch back to day time hours, just be aware things may be hard.

Sleeping may be a little rough (an understatement for some!) as your body clock still wants you to be awake because that is what you were training it to do.

Your energy levels may dwindle as you cope on significantly less sleep and your tolerance to well, anything maybe short.

Also, long term, you be impacted by the things we spoke about earlier.

But maybe you won’t…

In this post, we talk about how to work the night shift and not get sick. It’s packed with tips to working the graveyard shift smoothly and looking after yourself.

I highly recommend reading this if you are planning to switch back on your days off.

Here are three things you can do, to still make the switch and hopefully avoid getting sick

1. Drink SuperGreen TONIK

When you work night shift do you eat as many greens as you should? I know I’ve missed a couple sometimes!

SuperGreen TONIK green juice is a powdered green superfood, BUT it doesn’t taste like grass. We love it and have conducted a whole review PLUS, we give you a discount code to try it out.

2. Take Some Time For You

When was the last time you truly just stopped? You didn’t have the TV on or have your phone in your hand?

For most of us, stopping everything is hard, but if we don’t, it can lead to stress and feelings of burnout.

Using music to relax can make it feel less like a formal meditation and more like a ‘time-out’.  Here are some of our favorite playlists which includes the “most relaxing song in the world.”

3. Sleep With an Eye Mask and Make Sure You Love Your Bed, Sheets and Pillow

How are you supposed to sleep while the sunlight is streaming in?

We recently reviewed the top-selling eye masks. I’m sure you will find one to suit your needs. Top Selling Eye Masks for Sleeping For Total Block-Out.

If you need a new mattress or sleep gear, check out Nolah Signature 12 Mattress – you won’t be disappointed (and neither will your spouse/partner!)

Dan Pillow _ The Other Shift|
 Snuggle-Pedic Supreme Plush Ultra-Luxury PillowOpens in a new tab. (click to see the link via Amazon)

Summary: Should I Stick to a Night Shift Schedule on My Days Off?

We hope this post solved the common question, stumping most night shift workers on their days off.

Just remember, we are all different.

Some people are night owls and like to get to bed late and slowly rise mid to late morning, while others enjoy being in bed by 9 pm and up by 5 am to start the day with the sun rising. Try not to compare yourself to others.

Finding a schedule while working night shift which suits you and allows you to function with purpose, can take trial and error, so be patient.

Be kind to your body clock and yourself while not trying to be everything to everyone. Once you find a rhythm which works, magical things will happen.

Thanks for checking out this post on how to treat your days off as a night shift worker. How do you manage your days off? Let us know in the comments below.


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Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

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Women lying in bed pressing on eyes with eye mask

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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