Friday, June 24, 2011
Night Shift Blues
I was commiserating with my brother this morning after he had just gotten off the night shift at the local diner when I started pondering the effects of working the night shift. I have been working 12 hours nights at the hospital for the past four years and while it is, indeed, the best job I have ever had, the hours certainly do take their toll.
Take this week for example. I worked on Tuesday until 3am, got to bed about 3:30 and then was rudely awakened my my young son, who found it urgent that I join him in the bathroom at 6am while he moved his bowels. Life doesn't stop for the night shift. I then worked Wednesday night from 11pm to 7am (although this is a lie, our shifts actually end at 7:30, and often much later). I slept for four hours during the day yesterday while my kids played with a babysitter. Those four hours of sleep are by far the deepest sleep I am capable of these days.
I am like a corpse after working, completely passed out before my head even hits the pillow, drooling on my drive home and often slapping myself hard across the face to keep from drifting off behind the wheel. The level of exhaustion experienced by a night worker can only be compared to that of a long distance runner after a marathon (minus the adrenaline). Nobody understands this, unless you've done it you just don't get it. Painfully tired.
The problem lies (no pun intended) with the vast disruption to the circadian rhythm that I notice when I try and get a regular night sleep at the same time as everyone else. Last night I went to bed at 9:30, unable to keep my eyes open, but was then awake every hour after about 1am, only to be dragged out of bed like a mouse by a cat when the kids wanted pancakes. Torture. No wonder I feel so crazy sometimes.
I always take into consideration my colleagues with young children who sometimes stay awake all day after working to care for their kids, out of necessity or sheer insanity. I will do anything to get out of staying awake any longer than necessary, sometimes trying to hide from Sofie as I come in the door (please God, not another hug! Just let me sleep!) I feel for these friends who do not get to experience the sheer joy of diving between the sheets in the morning for a few glorious hours of peaceful slumber. Despite the exhaustion I feel at the end of the shift, there is nothing quite like it.