The 10 Habits of Successful Permanent Night Shift Workers

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Permanent night shift work. Are you crazy? Who in their right mind would sign up for such a roster? For some it’s choice, whilst others it’s a necessity. But if you are considering this roster or currently struggling to meet its demands, a little extra preparation can go a long way to enjoying a much more consistent work / life balance.

Let’s face it, night shifts can have some negative effects like fatigue, difficulty focusing, mood swings, low satisfaction, and tolerance for the job. When you do it permanently, that’s a lot to deal with! So how does this flagellant crew make it work? Sit tight and grab kombucha (night shift workers know about this beverage), as we’ll share with you the top tips from a permanent night workers perspective.

10 Tips for Permanent Night Shift Workers

1. Prepare Before the Night Shift

If it is your first time as a night shift worker, you will need to prepare beforehand. You start a few days before the night shift starts by delaying your bedtime for a few hours (do not stay up for the entire night).

Watch movies with the lights on (find out why this is important here) or call your friends living abroad, this will help your body slowly get used to being awake at night. The day before your night shift, take a nap a few hours before the shift to prepare. Learn how to nap like a boss here.

When trying to prepare for night one, this video will help.

2. Look Beyond The Vending Machine

It is always a great idea to have a healthy eating pattern. As a night shift worker, you have to pay attention to your grocery list. There is a high chance that you will buy an unhealthy snack from vending machines due to fatigue during your shift so bring your healthy snacks (here a few of our favorites) to work along with a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Having water nearby is an absolute lifesaver; the last thing you want to be is dehydrated.

We use the BEAST Tumbler to keep our water cold and coffee/tea hot. Here is our review of this tumbler and why we love it. In terms of hydration, here are a few energy-boosting drinks you might like to consider which won’t disturb your sleep later on.

Balancing your eating pattern can be tricky so switch to light meals like soups, smoothies, wholemeal breads, fruits, high protein foods, and vegetables, this will help you stay alert and digest easily too.

For some, it’s pretty easy to forget to eat while you are at work so eat something before you sleep to prevent waking up because of hunger pains.

If you are considering the fasting options, this post we wrote about intermittent fasting will support you in getting started.

3. Know What To Avoid

It is very important to know what stimulants are acceptable when you work night shifts.

It is very tempting to turn to coffee, alcohol, or cigarettes to help you stay awake and sleeping pills to help you sleep. These stimulants don’t only have a short-term effect, they may also increase dependence. 

  • Alcohol will help you fall asleep but you may experience some after-effects like fatigue, drowsiness, and even reduce sleep quality. Read – Is Surviving Night Shift with a Morning Beer a Good Idea?
  • Caffeine will boost your energy for some time, but it should be taken in moderation. Grab yourself a juice when you get a coffee break during your shift. Avoid caffeine period 6 hours before your designated sleeping time.
  • Drink more tea. We recently stumbled acorss a company called Pique Tea and my goodness are they so tasty! They have herbal teas, black teas, green teas and even suppliments. If you’re a tea drinking, you’ve got to check out Pique tea. Use THEOTHERSHIFT at checkout for a sweet discount.
  • Avoid the prolonged use of sleeping pills because it may lead to dependency. Here’s some excellent info about this space.
  • While at work, don’t overindulge in junk food, high-fat or dense sugar meals. These foods will most likely cause an energy dip afterward. (Plus they are not great in limiting weight gain)
  • Avoid the sunlight after the shift. Why is this important? Well, our sleep hormone melatonin loves the dark and can’t do it’s thing when it detects light. Once you arrive home, try and create a cave for yourself that is dark and cool. However, sunlight is critical in the afternoon to reset your body clock and obtaining some vitamin D. This post dives into vitamin D for night shift workers a bit more.

Related post: Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

The other thing we recommended adding into your diet is SuperGreen TONIK – our favorite green juice to fill the gaps in your diet! See our full review here and see access the 10% discount code or jump straight onto the SuperGreen TONIK website here.

4. Set Up A Good Sleep Routine

Night shifts will disrupt your usual circadian rhythm.

Body functions relax at night to prepare you to sleep. You have to fight your usual rhythm and still get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep as an adult. Set up a designated sleeping time and stick to it. We have to show some disciple.

Sleep routines can be flexible though; some people decide to work with split-naps so that they can get some housework done during the day. A split nap is very effective; you can sleep for a few hours in the morning and sleep longer in the evenings so that you can wake up a few hours before your shift. 

You can also sleep late and wake up before your shift without splitting or try a mix of the two methods. When you find a sleep schedule that suits you, use it.

Here a few other posts about sleep you’ll find helpful;

[VIDEO] – Struggling to find a sleep routine or not sure what should form part of your routine? This video will show you how and where to start.

Do you love the tips so far? Keep reading to learn more ways to successfully manage your night shifts.

5. Make Your Environment Comfortable

The best time to get quality sleep is at night because it is darker, less noisy and your body fully supports sleep. As a night shift worker, you have to bring the night to your room.

Daytime periods of sleep are lighter and not as effective but a dark bedroom will convince your body (and our sleep hormone melatonin) to shut down and rest; you can control your sleeping environment in the following ways:

  • Buy earplugs to avoid being disturbed by noises.
  • Use thick curtains that will effectively block the sunlight in your bedroom or sleep with an eye mask. (This mask from Manta Sleep is darn amazing. Highly recommend!)
  • Wear blue light blocking glasses on your journey home.
  • Although it is tempting, avoid using your phone before bed to improve your sleep quality.
  • During your shift, make the room as bright as you can handle to stay alert.
  • In the later hours of your shift, be prepared for the chills. We talk more about why you’ll likely want a sweater around 3am here

Related post: 10 Must-Have Night Shift Sleep Aids for a Heavenly Sleep

Dan wearing Aviator blue light blocking glasses from Swanwick Sleep – see website here.
Remember to keep your blue light blocking glasses on even when brushing your teeth! See what other Sleep aids are available from Swanwick Sleep – here

6. Only Execute Tasks That You Can Handle

As a night shift worker, your days will now start in reverse; you will be more active at night and sleep during the day.

A great tip to get used to night shifts is to treat your day like it’s night, minimize your activities as much as you can because you will be awake at night.

Go for short walks in the park or join a gym so that you can leave your home from time to time. Try not to attend parties or activities that make you feel super alert right before your shift starts.

You may have to say no to some events but building this kind of control will save you from fatigue during night shifts themselves.

Driving back home from work can be difficult if you don’t work from home, especially if it is a particularly stressful shift. Before driving, ask yourself if you can truly handle it, if not try out these ideas instead.

  • Don’t drive, call an Uber, a friend, or use public transport.
  • Share the drive with friends going the same way and chat whilst you drive to stay alert.
  • Stretch before the journey.
  • If you are really sleepy, take a short nap when your shift is over before driving.

Still feel like driving? Here are some tips on getting home safely!

Girl asleep driving | How to Stop Falling Asleep While Driving After Night Shift​

7. Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Night Shift

One of the negative effects of being a permanent night shift worker is that it may affect your interpersonal relationships with your loved ones. Having a completely different schedule is not easy to accomplish.

You have to explain your situation to your friends, roommates, children, and spouse so that they understand the importance of your sleep time. This way, you will not be disturbed unless it is an emergency and your friends can also consider your schedule when making plans so that you don’t miss out on all the fun events.

To make it easier for your family, post a work calendar so that they know the days that you will be awake during the daytime.

Here are a few of our favorite calendars you should consider checking out

8. Control Your Off-Days

Controlling your activities outside work is one of the challenges of working night shifts. You may try to do some housework and catch up with your friends and family on your off days, but it may not be as easy as you think.

Take some time off for yourself.

Remember your hobbies and interests? Try doing those once in a while. If you are always trying to make time for your work and family, it is easy to forget about yourself. Take time to have long relaxing baths, listen to music and just do what you love.

9. Stick To A Routine

Picture your behavior if you work normal 9-5 hours, would you sleep as late as 1 am? You would probably have a standard bedtime that you stick to so that you can wake up early for work. Besides, you would also take your breakfast and lunch breaks very seriously.

Treat your night shift job with this type of attitude.

Night shift workers historically get 2-3 hours less sleep than those who sleep at night and in most cases; this is light sleep that can be easily disturbed.

Taking care of your body is very important to avoid situations like sleep disorders. (Read about Shift Work Sleep Disorder here). The key to achieving this is consistency. When you come up with your eating or sleeping schedule, try to strictly stick to it. Set reminders or make notes in your calendar to stay on track.

Is it time to pick up a book instead and allow your sleep hormones to work properly?
“But I need an alarm!” Try these old-fashioned alarm clocks instead.

10. There is Power in Numbers

Even if you work your night shifts from home, you should know some colleagues who have similar work schedules.

Do not underestimate the positive effect of support groups. You can chat with your night shift colleagues during the shift to keep you alert and you guys can also work together to maintain healthy habits.

The relationships you build during shifts may end up lasting a lifetime because work buddies will genuinely understand the challenges that you all go through on night shift!

Before the shiftDuring the shiftAfter the shift
– Take an evening nap before the shift
-Mentally prepare for the shift
– Stretch to keep alert
– Take caffeine in timed moderation
– Eat healthy snacks and drink lots of water
– Talk to your colleagues to stay awake
– Don’t drive if you don’t feel like it
– Sleep for at least 7-9 hours
– Eat healthy meals/snacks
– Make your room extra comfy for sleeping

When working permanent night shift, should I transition to a normal sleeping schedule on my days off?

Transitioning to a normal sleep schedule during your off days will make it harder to get used to your shift sleep schedule again.

We’d suggest to not keep your body guessing; it is better to stick to your night owl habits. Now family life doesn’t allow this for everyone, so if you do need to transition back to “normal” sleeping hours on your days off, make sure you transition back to your night shift sleep schedule again as early as possible before your shift. 

This post will help you understand what to do on days off – Help! Should I Stick to a Night Shift Schedule on Days Off?

How long should permanant night shift workers sleep for?

The goal is to get the daily recommended amount of sleep for adults (7-9 hours). If your shift runs from 11pm – 7am, maybe set your sleep schedule to 9am – 5pm or split it to 9am – 2pm and 6pm – 9pm to get some work done during the day.

How often should I take a nap during my night shift?

Napping depends heavily on your type of work. Most businesses do not have the opportunity to take naps and for some places, it will be interpreted as slacking off. If you start to feel drowsy and have a napping opportunity, take 5-20 minutes (set up your alarm for 3 intervals if you usually ignore alarms).

The goal of this nap is to have a light sleep that will make you more alert and attentive when you wake up. Napping for longer periods will turn into a deeper sleep and have the opposite effect because you may wake up feeling tired and drained.


Conclusion: The 10 Habits of Successful Permanent Night Shift Workers

Permanent night shift workers will experience challenges that the majority of day workers won’t. However, if you are one of these people who love being awake when everyone else is sleeping, remember the benefits that come with having a consistent schedule and just spend a little extra time with your planning. It will make for a much greater work/life balance overall!


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.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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