questionshow long did it take your body to adjust to…

vote-for38vote-against
vote-for6vote-against

I've only ever worked 3rd shift when I've been on travel, in another state. And that's actually been more 12-14 hour days/nights. Getting shifted back to 1st shift was always pretty easy as I just returned to my regular schedule. With the exception of the one time I got a nasty stomach bug right when I get home, I was able to shift back in about 2-3 days.

In my experience getting used to 3rd shift/nights I found that keeping a fairly rigid schedule was helpful. I got up, worked out, ate a high protein breakfast and did the rest of my day. The first few days I took a nap for about an hour before going to work. I know people will tell you not to nap, but I found I needed it in order to get through the night. After about the third day I found I was sleeping less than 20-30 minutes. After about five days I didn't need the nap at all. I also didn't drink anything caffeinated within 6 hours of getting off/going to bed. Chewing gum and doing pushups helped keep me awake.

vote-for5vote-against

Not long, but I was in my 20s back then. More than double that today so I doubt it'd work out as well.

Used to be one day, two at most.

vote-for5vote-against

Been on nights since 2001, I never change my sleep schedule unless I have a VERY good reason to. Usually when I plan a family vacation, I make sure I have at least 2 days of switch over time and I'm good to go. Usually the first day I go to bed when I get home like normal, but then I get up after about 4 hours, by 10-11pm that night I'm just tired enough to go to sleep, but I will be wide awake by 4-5am, so I get up and that starts the switch over. By that night, I will be tired enough to sleep most of the night. Hope that helps, it works for me.

vote-for6vote-against

@gt0163c: I had to cut caffeine out completely or I couldn't sleep at all. I worked 4/10 hour days & would switch my sleep schedule to sleep at night on weekends. I used to stay up all day after working my "Friday" running errands & keeping busy all day until I became so exhausted by the time night came I would sleep. Then I would live a normal life on weekends & slept at night. Only to switch my sleep schedule back to days at the beginning of my work week. So, I didn't think this permanent switch would be so hard!!! UGGGH

vote-for5vote-against

It takes me about a week to adjust when a shift change occurs. Although I never quite adjusted to the 24 hour shifts back when I was in the ARMY.

My best advice to you about sleeping though is after you get off work, wear yourself out. Do a quick workout, eat food, run/elliptical for about 30min and then relax the rest of the night until you're new "bed time". Burning all of those calories throughout the day will force your body to rest.

Or just take a sleeping pill =D

vote-for6vote-against

@mtm2: I also worked 3rd shift (for 5 years) about 15 years ago. I don't remember it being so hard to adjust. They only difference, besides being younger :-) was that before I would sleep right after work in the morning & then be up all afternoon & night. These past 4 years I stayed awake after work until the afternoon & then slept until it was time to get up & go to work. It seems to be taking much longer than 1 or 2 days to adjust. It's been 2-3 weeks & I still can't sleep through the night, even w/ a sleep aid.

vote-for5vote-against

@devexityspace: Thanks. I thought that it wasn't a good idea to work out w/in 3 hours of bedtime or that could also keep you awake. So, if I don't get some exercise in early in the day, I end up skipping working out all together. I know that working out would probably help & I will have to make a better effort to exercise more regularly.

vote-for5vote-against

A few weeks, but I never adjusted to 2/3rd shift because of weekends. I only slept 4-5 hours and napped weekends. I am still only able to sleep 6-7 hours a night, I can not be sure that was not a preexisting condition.

vote-for7vote-against

It took me several years, but I did 3rd shift for 17 years.

It's been almost 5 years on day shift and every once in a while bright sunlight still makes me sleepy. Also on rare occasions when I have to work a week or 2 on 3rd shift my body snaps right back into vampire mode and I find it very difficult to get back to day shift.

vote-for4vote-against

As stated above working out should help and keep to a regular schedule if at all possible... I work 1st and 2nd shifts, over 20 years now, afternoons are the toughest time since I am more awake after 5PM than before...

vote-for4vote-against

I used to eat my snacks/lunch at about the following times: Snacks:10pm & 12am, Lunch:3am, Snack:5am & then dinner about 8-9am. I noticed that I will wake up hungry often around 3am..ish. I find myself eating large meals, just to induce a food coma to help me sleep. This sometimes will give me a couple of hours undisturbed sleep at the most, but other times will inspire some bizarre dreams. At times that can be more restless than not sleeping at all!!

vote-for4vote-against

@samstag: Although I found your response discouraging, because I pray it won't take me that long to adjust. I also appreciate that someone seems to understand & relate to my struggles. People who never worked night shift, can't seem to grasp what we put our bodies through. Workers definitely deserve more then the 10-15% pay diffential that is given by most companies.

vote-for4vote-against

@sweetpea113377: Ugh. I am so sorry to hear this. It's hard enough to mess with the natural circadian rhythm, but to have it switch back and forth in this way is even worse. You have my absolute sympathy.

I am wondering if your 1st and 2nd shift work days are consistent? For example, you might work t-w-th 2nd, and then f-sa 1st (or something similar). Or are they changing every week, and not dependable? Is it possible to go on a pure 2nd shift schedule (I suspect that the answer will be no, but I still thought I'd ask).

I spent so much of my working life with no consistent day (including some years where I traveled a great deal), and one of the things I did was to be very careful of diet. Large meals will have the opposite effect, and in addition, you run a greater risk of developing diabetes. I strongly recommend meditation, which may help to ease into sleep. I don't recommend any chemical help, since those things are short best used for short terms (if at all).

[More tomorrow]

vote-for4vote-against

20 years and counting; still haven't adjusted.

vote-for4vote-against

@shrdlu: Currently my schedule is as you stated. 3days of 2nd shift & 2days of 1st shift. I would be open to trying meditation. If you have any advice on this topic, I would greatly appreciate it. I have been unsuccessfully attempting some relaxtion techniques for a couple of months now to assist in stress management. Now it seems even more crucial that I learn to meditate. Thanks

vote-for3vote-against

For me when I switched from working retail third shift to an IT job on first I forced myself to break the rhythm by forcing myself to exhaustion by staying up during the day entirely. Thankfully I had friday as my last 3rd shift and didnt start 1st till monday but saturday and sunday i forced myself to exhaustion keeping up during the day and finally passing out around 9-11pm on those two nights and my body seemed to take it fairly well. It is still wierd most times to be up during the day but I am now up regularly till 11:30pm and get up around 6 but its what has worked for me

vote-for4vote-against

The sleep science answer is that it takes one day for every hour that you need to adjust. Part of your problem is that you are switching between second and first shifts, which is going to screw you up. Plead with your supervisor to keep you one one or the other for a few weeks until you get your rhythms re-adjusted.

Some tips already mentioned:
1) Keep a schedule, even on the weekends. Get up and go to bed at the same time, more or less.
2) Avoid napping. Short naps (20 minutes or less) are OK. Any more than that (like 2 hour naps) are a total no-no.
3) No alcohol. It supresses REM sleep, and makes it feel like you aren't getting any rest at all.
4) Get bright sunlight on your face and body during the day. It help resets.
5) Bed is for sleeping only. No reading, watching TV, or Facebooking in bed. And yes, that includes Woot too.

vote-for3vote-against

@sweetpea113377: It sounds as though the "relaxation techniques" you've tried made you more, rather than less, stressed. I would suggest yoga (preferably in a class). Proper instruction would at least teach you how to breathe, which is a good start.

Since you have a "regular" schedule (as much as switching shifts in the week can be called regular), I suggest switching off the routines for your days to match your schedules, starting with the night before. When I traveled west to east, I would fly the red eye, and stay up all night, working straight through the next day, so that by nightfall I was ready to sleep no matter what the clock said. I don't recommend this to others, btw.

Try to keep most meals light, so that you are never at mercy of your stomach (all that energy devoted to digestion will interfere with your internal clock).

[More]

vote-for3vote-against

@sweetpea113377: The day before your second shift days start, try having a very late supper. I strongly suggest getting some outdoor time each and every day, including your days off. Consider taking some extra Vitamin D as well (and please note that I am not normally an advocate for any pills, vitamins or otherwise).

Try to get up the same time each day. Now that you are off 3rd shift, you should try to keep as close as possible to the natural circadian rhythm, and if you can, just treat your second shift days as late nights, and try not to make too many things special for them. The segue between the two shifts should be your only tough day, and if you can try to keep to a single schedule (as much as possible) it will make that transition easier.

It isn't going to be quick, no matter what. Your body got used to nights, and it will take time to switch.

[Edit: Also, I agree with everything @wilfbrim said, especially the alcohol.]

vote-for1vote-against

Update: Work finally gave me a reasonable schedule...the same start time every day. So I am expecting that I will be able to adjust much quicker now. Thank ya all for your advise. Much appreciated