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What Is the Graveyard or Night Shift?

David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

A graveyard at night, symbolic of the graveyard shift.

A graveyard at night, symbolic of the graveyard shift.

The Graveyard Shift

Working the graveyard shift is typically working the night hours, when most people are asleep. There is debate on when the hours could be. You can see shifts that start at 11 PM and end at 7 AM, or start at midnight and end at 8 AM. There could be other variations as well that could result in the majority of the work hours being worked at night.

There is no known history of why this shift was coined the graveyard shift. There is no proof that it is in relation to a graveyard or anything that happens at night. In a lot of cases some may feel dead after working such dreadful hours, but not everyone. In fact, there are those who love working the graveyard shift.

This article covers what the benefits and detractors are from working the graveyard shift, as well as how you can prepare it.

Author's Experience

I have worked over a year on the graveyard shift, as well as overtime shifts that were during the graveyard hours. I have experience in preparing and coping with the night shift, and counseling those that were having difficulties adjusting to the graveyard shift.

Pros and Cons of Working the Graveyard Shift

Pros and cons of working the night shift.


More money.

Lack of consistent sleep.

Can still see children.

May get sick more or may stay sick longer.

Can run errands during the day.

It's unnatural for the body to stay up all night.

Provides a unique experience.

May stay awake at night through your days off.

Office environments typically not as hectic.

Miss out on a lot when sleeping during the day.

Not as much drama with supervisors.

May get stuck working hard to cover graveyard overtime.

Can usually work independently.

May find it hard to get time off.

The Pros and Cons of the Night Shift

The chart to the above covers the pros and cons that involve working the graveyard shift. However, I want to primarily focus on the one major pro and one major con, as both apply to why I decided to work, and eventually leave, the night shift.

  • Pro - The pay. Not many people volunteer to work the graveyard shift hours. So, to entice those to work those hours, additional pay is offered. In the picture above, you will see where a government organization offers more pay for those working the graveyard shift hours. It's not necessarily a lot of money, but it's still a big enough incentive for those who volunteer to work the graveyard shift. Some jobs that specifically work at night may not have this benefit, though.
  • Con - Lack of sleep. This is one I had to tackle a lot myself. The body is geared to sleep at night. It takes a lot of conditioning to be able to sleep during day and be awake at night. I had this issue, and as a result, my life suffered. Even on my days off I would be awake all night and go to sleep during the day. An alternative to graveyards can be the swing shift.

Tips on Working the Graveyard Shift

Below are some tips on working the graveyard shift:

  • Get some sleep! I don't know how many people stay up all day long because of errands, child care issues, etc. The biggest thing you can do to survive the graveyard shift is to get some sleep. You only hurt yourself and your work performance if you force yourself to stay awake for extended periods of time.
  • Sleep when it's right for you. Some sleep the moment they get off work, others wait until the afternoon. I tried sleeping right after work, but it didn't go well. I found I slept better in the afternoon hours. Unfortunately, this meant sacrificing my personal life.
  • Make the perfect sleeping environment. Shut all the electronics off, lock the kids out of the room, cover your windows with tin foil, etc. Anything that will make it be quiet and peaceful as if it's nighttime. This will give your body the illusion that it is night.
  • Take a nap right before you go in. I would lay down to take a nap for about an hour before I had to go in for my shift. It's usually night, so that sleep can be a lot more deeper than the sleep you had during the day. However, I never wanted to get up from that nap.
  • Take a walk. For those who have a job where they sit around all night, you may not move that much. That can lead to dozing off at your desk. Get up and walk around. Most supervisors know how hard it is to work a graveyard shift, and are more than willing to let you get up and walk around to wake up.
  • Avoid certain medication. If you have to take medication, try to avoid those that will make you sleepy. That will almost certainly hit you during the graveyard shift. If you do take that kind of medication, it's probably best to avoid working at night.
  • Eat a balanced diet. When you are staying awake all night, that could wear on your body more. So eat good food to keep yourself healthy and energized. Avoid eating junk food when working your graveyard shift as well.
  • Exercise. To keep your body in shape and to give you more energy, ensure you exercise.
  • Talk to your family and friends. Most people don't understand how difficult it can be to work the graveyard shift. Talk to those around you about it. Let them know that you need uninterrupted sleep so you can ensure you make it through your graveyard shift.

Noticed how most of these tips involved sleep? Sleep is very important when you have to work the graveyard shift.

Now get to sleep!

Remember to get your sleep when you are working the night shift!

Remember to get your sleep when you are working the night shift!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Was working the graveyard shift worth it?

Answer: For career advancement, yes, but not for the impact it had on my personal life. My relationships suffered, my health suffered, etc., it was a bad time for me. I was lucky it was only for a couple years, as I didn't think I could handle it much longer than that.

© 2013 David Livermore


David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 12, 2013:

My dad is the same way, he has always been able to work night shifts and sleep during the day. I wished I was quieter though when he was sleeping when I was a kid. Thanks for the comment!

Kawika Chann from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on January 12, 2013:

Hey this is my shift!! I love it!! IDK, I can flip/flop back and forth from morning to night shifts without too much trouble, but your points on getting enough sleep and especially exercise is very accurate. Voted up/useful. Peace. Kawi.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 12, 2013:

It almost ruined my life, as I spent over a year just working and trying to sleep. Some people can handle it better than others. I'll never go back to that kind of shift again. Thanks for your comment!

Christine McDade from Southwest Florida on January 12, 2013:

I have had exit interviews with the graveyard shift "lifers" who worked this shift for several years. I think the consistent remark or theme was that it did place stress on their personal lives and sleep almost always suffered. Very interesting topic. Love the graveyard pic.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 11, 2013:

I do it every once in a while myself, which I find is a nice change of pace. But I know I couldn't do it permanently again. Thanks for the comment!

Jessica Peri from United States on January 11, 2013:

You're certainly right about the sleep pattern. I have never worked a graveyard shift, but I have done one or two inventory shifts for my job - the hours were from nine at night to five in the morning, and while not much physical work was done, it definitely felt unnatural. I drank a lot of caffeine! Voted up!