Report from the graveyard shift

I’ve managed to muddle through another round of overnight shifts – four this time – and, wow, am I glad they’re over.  They are a necessary evil if you’re going to work in health care, and overall, they don’t bother me terribly.  The biggest trouble with them is I don’t see my family much at all when I’m working them.  I leave for work at 9PM, get home around 8AM just as my daughter’s leaving for school.  I usually am unconscious by 9AM and sleep till around 2:30PM.  I get up, forage for food and then go back to bed at 4PM and sleep till 8PM.  I’m not sure what it is about working the night shift that necessitates spending pretty much all your non-working hours unconscious.  I don’t do that with my regular day shifts.  I’ve long since decided that I’m better off not analyzing it and just going with the flow.

One thing I will say is that I slept better during the day this time around than I ever have in the past.  I chalk this up to three things.  The first was that I severely limited my intake of caffeine on the shift.  I allowed myself one caffeinated beverage right at the beginning of the shift, but then after that, I couldn’t drink caffeine.  It’s not that caffeine really keeps me awake once I get home and try to sleep, but what it does is cause me to wake up every half hour having to pee like I haven’t gone in 24 hours.  It is not what you would call super conducive to sleeping.  I’m happy to report that it really did work and I didn’t really feel all that tired while I worked, despite the lack of caffeine.  As Heidi said, caffeine doesn’t keep you awake, it keeps you hyper.  She’s probably right.

I also think a good chunk of the credit goes to my CPAP machine.  Even though it is still the height of sexy, I sleep so much better with it it’s not even funny.  It’s a win all around because Heidi sleeps better now that she doesn’t have to listen to me snore any longer.  But ever since I started using it in late November last year, I have been sleeping through the night more often than not and waking up feeling rested.  This was the first set of nights I worked using CPAP and I can tell that it made a big difference.

The third thing, although I don’t know how much of a difference it actually made, is actually one of my new favorite things.  I have listened to music while I sleep ever since I was a kid.  I pretty much always had a radio or CD or something on as I went to sleep.  My daughter is the same way – she listens to the same Kate Bush album on repeat every night as she goes to bed.  Heidi, on the other hand, isn’t into music while she sleeps.  I’ve used regular earbuds for the longest time, but the addition of the CPAP makes me feel like I’m one more wire or tube away from being part of the Borg Collective.  Enter my friend Jess who, upon hearing me complain about this, offered me the use of her SleepPhones – headphones specifically designed to be worn to bed.  They’re basically small headphone-like speakers embedded in a band of cloth that resembles those not-quite-earmuffs-not-quite-a-stocking-hat thing that I wear in the winter.  A wire comes out the back of the apparatus that you hook up to your iPod and you’re in business.  They even allow you to pull the front of it down over your eyes so if you’re a daysleeper (like I was the last few days), you can block out the sun.  Let me just say that I slept like a baby with them.  As someone said on the Think Geek website, if they can figure out a way to make them wireless, they’ll be millionaires.  I like these things so much, I’m probably going to have to buy a set of my own.  I don’t care if they do make me look as d-baggy as the guy in the picture, they are amazing pieces of technology.

So with that, I’m off to bed, hopefully to sleep for just a couple hours so I can start the process of getting my body used to sleeping while its dark again.  This kind of sucks because it’s beautiful outside and I’d love to go out and enjoy the day, but I know that it’s folly to try to stay up until it’s time to go to bed tonight.  The older I get, the harder it is to fill in for this shift.  I used to think that I could do it full-time short term, but I know now that’s just silly.  I’ll keep my day shifts, thanks, AND the sleep headphones.  Thanks, Jess!

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