Thinking of working the night shift, or working nights already? Depending on your lifestyle and priorities in life, it could be a good choice. Here are 15 pros and cons of the night shift so you can be aware of all the advantages and disadvantages of working unusual hours and going to bed when most people wake up.
If you don’t have time to read the whole article, feel free to skip to the summary at the end. Here we go:
Pros of night shift
Regardless of your job title, you will almost always make more money if you work nights. As we’ll see in a bit, working unusual hours can take a toll on your social life, or even on your health, so many employers are happy to pay more to hire people who are willing to work nights.
Now, whether the extra hourly pay is worth it depends on many different things — how well you tolerate the crazy hours, the actual difference in your salary each month, and whether you need that extra amount of money. But it’s nice knowing that you’ll almost always be rewarded for working nights.
Again, this isn’t guaranteed, and totally depends on your job. For example, if you work at a bar, chances are it will be much busier at night. But for most professions, and in most cases, the night shift will be the quiet one. Think of nurses, drivers, receptionists, cleaners, security guards, and pharmacists.
Not everyone finds fast-paced environments motivating. If you prefer to work when it’s quiet, and there’s less noise and less people to deal with, then working nights may be ideal, and could help you get rid of unnecessary stress.
No brainer, right? Driving to work when it’s really late is a breeze compared to rush hour, and can even be enjoyable. Plus, you’ll be ten times more alert than someone who just woke up, drank coffee, and jumped in his car while still half asleep. Driving back home will be different, obviously, but it can be quite relaxing (just make sure you don’t doze off).
As shown by many studies, commuting isn’t just time consuming, but it can also be incredibly stressful. By going to work at a very unusual time, you can turn commuting into a pleasant experience, or at least one that isn’t so stressful, and avoid traffic (which can save you time as well).
Good for night owls
Although human beings were designed to be awake during the day and sleep when it’s dark, we all have a different chronotype, which means some of us are naturally inclined to fall asleep earlier, and some of us later. It’s important to listen to your body and find out what your chronotype is, so you can be more alert and productive.
And if you are a night owl, then working evenings or nights could be better than having a daytime job, simply because your energy, focus, and motivation usually increase when it’s late. Apparently, night owls tend to be more creative, and even have a higher IQ, so if that’s your natural inclination, don’t worry, there’s nothing you need to fix!
More jobs available
Although working the night shift comes with many advantages, most people only see the downsides, and avoid nights like the plague. This makes it harder for recruiters and employers to find people that are willing to work evenings or nights.
As a result, when someone is willing to work unusual hours, they’ll usually find it easier to be employed simply because there is little to no competition. Plus, there will usually be more working hours available, and it will be easier for them to negotiate their contract as well as their days off.
By working nights, you are definitely going to miss many social events. On the other hand, you’ll have the whole day available. This means not having to worry when scheduling appointments, having more flexibility, and even being able to attend classes or events most people couldn’t go to simply because of their nine-to-five.
Depending on your daily routine, you could also find that working nights allows you to spend more time doing the things you enjoy. Many people are exhausted after their shift, and don’t really feel like doing anything in the evening; conversely, those who have the night shift can use some of their energy and attention in the afternoon, before their job.
No alarm clock
Here’s another really cool thing about the night shift: you’ll never be forced to hear the alarm clock ever again. Now, I still recommend you set an alarm to maintain your sleep cycle and make sure you don’t oversleep. But if you want, you could simply let your body wake up when it wants to, because as a night worker you’ll never have to go to work early.
Paradoxically, working nights could also improve your sleep in the sense that you’ll usually find it easier to get your eight hours. Those who have to wake up early in the morning, say, at 7am, can only get proper sleep if they manage to fall asleep before midnight, which seems an impossible task at times. Conversely, as a night worker you’ll be able to sleep enough hours even if you can’t fall asleep fast.
Some people need or must eat breakfast as soon as they wake up; for example, athletes with a hypercaloric diet, or those who don’t have time to eat after they leave the house. However, skipping breakfast isn’t necessarily a bad thing: some people, especially those who practice intermittent fasting, find that it helps them have more energy, concentrate, and improve their digestion.
Then, there’s people who simply don’t want to eat anything right after they wake up, and prefer to drink water or juice instead. If you work nights, this won’t be a problem as you won’t have to do anything in particular during the first part of the day, and you won’t have to consume a lot of calories right after you wake up.
Easier to fall asleep
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. When you work nights, you may find it easier to fall asleep, for two main reasons. First, if you get your diet right, and manage to have your last meal during one of your breaks, then you won’t have to eat anything three to four hours before you go to bed: this makes it easier to fall asleep and even improve sleep quality (digestion can disrupt sleep).
Second, when it’s time to go to bed, you’ll be very tired as you’ll have just finished your shift; your mind and your body will already be in sleep mode. Conversely, someone who has dinner then stays up to go out or practice one of their hobbies will find it harder to doze off at bedtime.
Cons of night shift
Not very sociable
Are you an extrovert who needs to interact with people all the time? Are you a social butterfly who can’t wait to go out every weekend? Then night shift may not be for you. Our society is designed so that people can work or study during the day, then have fun and socialize at night.
So naturally most social events will always take place in the evenings. If you are a night worker, know that you are likely to miss a lot of these events, and that it may be harder for you to have a fulfilling social life compared to most people. You can still go out and socialize in the afternoon, of course, but it won’t be the same.
Unnatural sleep pattern
This depends on the actual hours you work; if you are lucky enough to work evenings and manage to go to bed at a more or less decent time, it shouldn’t be a problem. However most night shifts finish at 4am or later, so chances are you won’t be able to fall asleep before 5am or so.
Eventually, your body will get used to it. But it’s still quite unnatural, and it may interfere with your sleep quality, especially over time. Many night workers complain about their sleep and say they always feel tired, even when they do sleep well, simply because of the unnatural schedule.
Higher risk of health problems
According to some studies, those who work the night shift are more likely to have health problems and diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. In addition to that, as we’ve seen, the night shift can make it harder to have a fulfilling social life, thus increasing the risk of loneliness or mild depression.
Is this something you should worry about? Probably not — regardless of your work hours, you always have the power to improve your physical and mental health by changing your diet, habits, and thoughts, and the people you surround yourself with; your job is only one of many factors to determine your quality of life. Just be aware that working until 6am isn’t exactly the healthiest thing in the world.
I already mentioned that, in most cases, the night shift is very quiet compared to other shifts. In general, this is a good thing. But there are people who find this way too boring, to the point where their motivation to go to work becomes non-existent, and every hour spent at their job is a drag.
It may seem that a job where you don’t do much, or nothing at all, is a dream job, but it couldn’t be further than the truth. Consistent low levels of productivity are actually likely to make you feel tired and depressed, so the key is to find a profession that isn’t exhausting but at the same time keeps you motivated.
No public transport
If you work nights and own a car, driving to your job (and parking) is a breeze. However, if you have to rely on public transport it could be a bit of a nightmare, especially if your workplace is in a smaller town.
The good news is that if you finish your shift at 5 or 6 in the morning, there will usually be trains or buses available simply because some people need to go to work at that time; you can also ask a coworker to pick you up if you work the same shift. Just be aware that in some cases owning a car may be necessary and even required by your employer.
Harder to stay asleep
It may be easier to fall asleep right after you’ve finished your night shift, however staying asleep is a different story. Depending on where you live, it may be noisy in the morning, and it’s absolutely essential that you make your room as dark as possible, or even wear a sleep mask in order not to be woken up by the light.
You can block out noise by wearing earplugs, although some people find them uncomfortable, or listen to white noise (a sound that blocks out almost all frequencies). Either way, be prepared to have a very unusual sleep schedule, and know that unless you optimize your sleep, you’ll be likely to suffer from sleep issues over time.
Pros and cons of night shift: summary
- Higher hourly pay
- Usually quieter and more relaxing
- Less or no traffic, which makes commuting easy
- Good for night owls
- Less competition and more jobs available
- Free afternoons, always
- No alarm clock early in the morning; easier to sleep in
- You can skip breakfast or practice intermittent fasting
- Easier to fall asleep once you’re done
- Harder to maintain a social life
- Unnatural sleep cycle (even if you get used to it)
- Higher risk of health issues, especially long-term
- It could be way too boring
- Public transport may not be available
- Harder to stay asleep and have optimal sleep quality