1. First, I’m not kidding about the freaks come out at night comment. We are weird people. Seriously, we should be studied and featured in a National Geographic special. Sometimes it seems as though our shift’s primary language is barnyard animal. You have to be a little loopy if you choose to make your living working in the wee hours of the night when the vast majority of nature is fast asleep. So if you encounter a night worker and they seem just a bit off, give ‘em a break. The real question is, do nights make you crazy or do you have to be crazy to work nights?
2. Don’t ask a night shifter what they do all day. What do you think we do all day? What are you doing at 2 o’clock in the morning when you have to go to work at 8? Of course if you do ask this question, we’ll probably try to be cordial in our answer. But in our heads we’ll be thinking that you’re an idiot. In the same regard, DO NOT boast that it must be nice to have the days free to do whatever you want. Yeah, and it must be nice for you to have free time between the hours of 10PM and 6AM.
3. Life revolves around sleep. It’s the absolute most important thing to a night shifter. You can rest assured that almost every shift will start with, “I go X hours of sleep last night.” Given the choice between sleep and almost anything else, sleep wins—EVERY TIME.
Along the same lines…
Worst inventions ever: lawnmowers, cars, telephones, ice cream trucks, happy children playing, sunlight.
Best inventions ever: blackout blinds, sleep masks, ear plugs, rainy days.
4. Breakfast is more a frame of mind rather than a time of day. Don’t freak out when a night worker is eating chips, pizza, candy bars, etcetera at eight in the morning. It’s the end of our day. And having a beer in the morning doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a raging alcoholic. They could have just put in a full night’s work. We like to wind down after a long shift just like you.
5. If you know someone works nights, DO NOT CALL THEM DURING THE DAY UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO (and if you think you have to, think about it a little longer just to be sure). Unless someone is dead, dying, or we’ve overslept for work, drop the phone and back away. If you do make the mistake of calling during the day with no good reason, be prepared for retaliation in the form of a 3AM phone call. Oh, yeah—if you do call, DO NOT make the mistake of starting the conversation with, “I’m sorry, were you sleeping?”
6. This is a personal experience of mine: If you are roommates with a night shifter, do not tell them that you’ll give them between the hours of X and Y to sleep, but after that we’re going to be as loud as we want (unless you want to lose a friend and the financier of 1/3 of the rent).
7. “Good morning” and “Good night” are meaningless and only make for confusion. If we tell you goodnight at 0700, get over it. It may be good morning for you, but its goodnight for us. And we’re never truly certain of what day it is, so just don’t ask.
8. Hot coffee, cold coffee, it really doesn’t matter unless it lacks caffeine. It’s not a matter of preference, it’s a matter of survival. Caffeine, chocolate, energy drinks. Staples of the night shift diet. The quickest way to my heart is through a case of Rock Star or Amp (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
9. Friendly neighbors and Jehovah Witnesses, alike—DO NOT KNOCK ON A NIGHT WORKER’S DOOR DURING THE DAY. Unless the building is burning down, leave me alone. Don’t mess with my sleep.That goes for you too, FedEx.
10. Today is tomorrow and tomorrow is tonight. Don’t try to figure it out.
11. We make more money. Get over it. The differential is not about the workload, it’s about the 10 years off the end of our lives because we’ve spent our careers dealing with shift work sleep disorder. You want the diff, do the hours.
12. If you see this sign on a night worker’s door: