March 13th, 2010

The long road home

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I’ve been working night shift, man & boy, for 31 years. I believe that it’s not the healthiest option. I recall some 25 or more years ago being told there was some research that working a full shift pattern over an average working life was likely to knock 5 years off your life expectancy. I have no idea if there’s any truth in that or not, knowing my luck it’s increased with inflation by now.

I dont mind nights, I’d probably rather work nights than lates. Lates just blights your home life, at least on nights you can still do stuff in the evening even if you have to leave early.

My last set of nights was awful. I started off having to get up early on the first day of nights. Normally, the night before nights I’d stay up until around 4am. This means I can sleep in longer so that I’m not so tired by the early hours of the first night shift.

Last shift I had workman round which meant I was up at 7, stayed up all day then went to work until the next morning, eventually getting to bed after some 26 hours. That’s a long time without sleep. I wondered how I made it home.

Part of my journey involves a fair few miles up a long & very boring dual carriageway. I often get part-way up the road & realise I have absolutely no recollection of the preceeding 15 – 20 minutes of the journey.

I know there are lots of examples of police officers being killed on accidents on their way home from night shift. I wonder how widespread this problem is amongst other shift workers.

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  1. shijuro says:

    I worked shifts before I joined up – and its the same… the main diff for me was the private company I worked for was quite nice to the staff… we only worked 4-nights in a row as well. They said it was too much to do more…

    I have nearly crashed a couple of times…

    once (on my motorbike) I was so tired I stopped and had a nap in a bus shelter… 20-mins i was asleep…

    there are ways to make 24- shifts easier… down to manpower and the will of the SMT…

    so no then…

    March 13th, 2010 at 23:39

  2. Stonehead says:

    I used to work shifts. Regular late or night shift patterns were fine once my body had adjusted. The killer shift pattern was the rotating one, where I’d work a couple of earlies, a couple of a days, a couple of lates and a couple of nights. To make matters worse, the shifts often went over by 2-4 hours, which meant that by the time I got home I’d have less than 6-8 hours break before the next shift started.

    One colleague woke up to find his car driving with two wheels on the road and two on the sloping concrete rampart of a bridge. He somehow managed to get back on the road without crashing his car. Another woke up to find headlights shining in his eyes at close range—he hit the brakes and thought he was monumentally stuffed. He then realised he was in his garage with the handbrake on and his own headlights were reflecting back at him from an old mirror.

    On top of shift patterns, it was a high-stress, deadline driven job with constant pressure to reduce staffing and increase profits. Not surprisingly, the burn-out rate was horrendous.

    March 14th, 2010 at 08:34

  3. shijuro says:

    all true- i read that the rotating shifts are better for you in the long run though..

    March 14th, 2010 at 14:57

  4. Tom Gane says:

    I cannot say that I fondly remember the ‘rolling eight’ hour shifts, as I found it a serious disruption to family life.

    However, after service in the forces, there was a certain pattern of work on the ambulance service I liked, but it was a pain planning for my second job.

    March 14th, 2010 at 18:56

  5. Shitso says:

    Other shiftworers we just nick on bullshit charges for easy detections – especially at he end of each month.

    March 14th, 2010 at 19:04

  6. Stressedoutcop says:

    I believe it affects your blood – so it ages quicker than a normal person. Researched it once and it’s to do with oxygen levels and stresses on the body.

    It’s not good for you – it’s a fact

    March 14th, 2010 at 20:20

  7. Ambulance Amateur says:

    I worked shifts in several jobs. The last place I worked them I did nearly 15 years on a rotating system where, in any set of shifts, we did mornings, afters and nights. These included weekends.

    At first I could do them easily. Later, I found it harder and harder to sleep after I came off night shift. I was permanently tired, whatever shift I was on.

    Eventually I became so stressed that I ended up depressed. I came off shifts and, after quite a while on days in a job I really enjoyed, I just about recovered.

    On the other hand, some colleagues on shifts had been doing them for 30+ years and appeared to lap them up. They found the freedom in the daytime, and days off during the week, their ideal lifestyle.

    They were also always available to work overtime and to do extra hours for time off in lieu.

    In general, I believe shifts are life-shortening. However, for some people, they are genuinely life-enhancing and can often mean an earlier retirement because of the extra money made on shifts.

    Incidentally, the pathalogical effects of shifts become greater the older you are. Over 50, or even 45, shifts are definitely life-shortening on average.

    BTW, that’s why I’m Ambulance Amateur. I’d love to do the work in a professional capacity but I think the shifts would kill me.

    March 14th, 2010 at 21:40

  8. 200 says:


    I haven’t a clue what you just said

    March 14th, 2010 at 22:49

  9. Old Phil says:

    The worst for me was I started work 9am on a Friday and got home at 2am on Monday morning with no breaks etc until then. I sleept to about mid day and got up. Walked to the front door and the better half asks me where I am going. My reply “off to collect the car from work” was returned with confusion as she pointed out the windows at the car on the driveway. Still to this day I have no memory of how I got home.

    March 17th, 2010 at 13:28

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