Non-traditional or graveyard shift wages are often higher than day-shift wages. Why is that? Because of the hassle associated with working that time slot. Although some people make the transitions from day work to overnight work quite easily, most people have significant problems that eventually affect their health. According to a 2007 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, working the graveyard shift may increase a worker’s chances of developing cancer.
The Sleep Issue
The immediate concern for graveyard shift workers will be their lack of sleep. For most of their lives and during their primary schooling years, their bodies were used to being active during daylight hours and sleep during night hours. Now, the circadian rhythm needs to be completely reprogrammed. Some night shift workers can go through years at their jobs and still not make a successful transition, such as this writer, who worked seven years at a Kmart night shift.
The bedroom needs to be darkened so that daylight can’t get in, even to the point of nailing a black blanket over the windows. A white noise machine is good to mask any normal daytime activities. If the worker lives with other members of the household, those members have to respect the worker’s right to have a decent day’s sleep. Most graveyard shift workers will turn to over the counter sleep aids, but these pills do not work over the long term.
The Social Issue
Another reason graveyard shift workers get grouchy is that they have been almost completely cut off from their family and friends due to their jobs. They will not be able to go out to enjoy their usual fun social activities because they happen during their shift. In order to keep their bodies at the needed circadian rhythm, they will still have to sleep during the day on their time off, which means they are awake when all of their friends and family are asleep.
Some graveyard shift workers manage to find new friends that also work the graveyard shift and some form strong bonds with their fellow co-workers. But that does not fulfil all of the social needs. A graveyard shift worker needs to already be used to being by themselves and finding means of entertainment that does not involve others. Although it will seem to a graveyard shift worker that the rest of the world is having fun without them, many family and friends will make an effort to understand their job situation and make some adjustments to be able to spend some time with the worker.
It takes a special type of worker to be able to put up with the hassles and extreme stress that a non-traditional shift can produce. Or some workers, they will so love the job that it will not be a problem. But for most other people — especially those on menial jobs such as stocking shelves at a store — they may soon get depressed. They need to know that they are not alone and that their job is valuable and honourable.
MSNBC: “Graveyard Shift Linked to Cancer Risk.” Nov. 29, 2007. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22026660/
Times of India. “Graveyard Shift Affects Marriage.” August 18, 2010. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/6330725.cms
Net Wellness. “Sleep Tips for Shift Workers.” http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/sleep/shiftworker.cfm
Author worked the graveyard shift for seven years