In a report for The Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan recounts her experience working the graveyard shift as part of the newspaper’s Morning Mix team.
I rolled over to look at the clock — 10 a.m — and started doing the calculations that become second nature when you’re a shift worker with an insomnia problem. I had to be at work in 11 hours. And if I wanted to get anything done at work, I had to cobble together something like a good night’s — er, day’s — rest right now. I closed my eyes and tried to will my body into oblivion.
But it didn’t come. Or at least, not when I wanted it to. The various sleep-inducing strategies I tried — soothing music, dull podcasts, yoga, meditation, chamomile tea — were only patchily effective. Prescription sleep aids left me feeling groggy and no better rested than before. When I finally did nod off, it was at midnight, at my desk, my cheek stuck to the pages of my notebook. My boss, bless him, sent me home early.
The graveyard shift at a newspaper is many marvelous things — exciting, liberating, challenging, full of bizarre stories and excellent camaraderie — but healthful is not one of them. In the 14 months I spent on the Post’s Morning Mix team, working 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. five days a week, my hair fell out and my short-term memory disintegrated. I had the sleep habits of a colicky infant, waking up every few hours, and a sick baby’s less-than-charming disposition to match. In the interest of honest reporting, I’ll admit that at times I cried like a baby as well.