Saturday, 25 October 2008

Through the darkness

I’ve been working as a doctor for a few years now which means that I’ve a few years of working night shifts. You’d think that after all this time I’d know the best way to re-adjust my body clock so I can work through the hours of darkness but this is really not the case.

The trouble with working all through the night is that you invariably end up deprived of sleep, no matter how hard you try to sleep during the day. On top of that, it’s actually pretty difficult to eat properly. You don’t really feel hungry when you’re on nights, but a couple of nights in, you’ll start to feel really weak, irritable and spaced out and you’ll realise that it’s probably because you hardly eaten anything for 48 hours.

I’ve tried various strategies to get me through. I’ve tried forcing myself to stay awake the night before, I’ve tried trying to sleep whenever possible, I’ve tried sugar, I’ve tried caffeine, I’ve tried exercise and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no good way to flip your body clock to working nights and then flip it back again.

My current strategy is to eat two largish meals – one before I set off for work in the evening and one before I leave work in the morning. I’ll also try and eat something at around 01:00 and if it gets quiet, I’ll try and snatch some sleep. I don’t think getting through nights becomes any easier, but I would say that these days, I’m more prepared for how crap I’ll feel.


Elaine said...

Dr Z at

gave some good advice as to how he copes on nights.

Tazocin said...

But would you go back to a system where you work 8am-6pm five nights a week with a night or two of call and the occasional weekend thrown in with no time off after a 36 hour shift? We still work the old "on-call" system in Ireland and I find that hard.

The only blogger I know who has experience of both is Dr. Jane Doe:

Anonymous said...

Yep, I found nights completely messed up my eating habits too, not to mention feeling constanly exhausted and messed up when not working. Urgh.


(Now 1st year med student)

Kiwi Boy said...

Oh I think you'll feel really sleepy after a large meal - I don't think it'd be a good idea to have one right before starting a night shift. If it suits you though, it's good I guess.