Third Shift and Sleep Tips


Sometimes I find myself wondering why third shift exists in so many companies. Do they really make a profit? For necessary jobs like emergency responders, I get it, but a truck mechanic? Wouldn’t we all be better off if they just waited until morning? My husband has worked every shift known to man. He is a trooper. Currently, as you may have guessed, he is on third shift. While, theoretically, he has evenings and weekends still, the lack of sleep slowly steals time away and when he is up, he lives in a zombie-like state.

For a brief few months, we experienced First-Shift-Living. It was glorious. Our time was spent together or enjoying other activities. We were mostly well rested (we did have a new baby) and when my husband came home, he was ready to be present instead of immediately wanting to go back to sleep. We even participated in regular social gatherings. What a luxury.

Sleeping Nine To Five

We had hoped third shift would be similar, but it’s not. The first time he went on third shift, we had no idea how taxing it would be. This time around, however, I was a little more prepared for the sleep deprivation. My husband’s normal schedule includes waking up all morning for a plethora of reasons, groggily waking up around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. and trying to stay awake until the kids go to bed at 8 p.m. Afterwards, he is either up and tired or sleeping. Sleeping well used to be near impossible for him, especially on weekends when he regularly swaps his sleep schedule so we can go to church together. It has been difficult to persevere through the hard and often lonely days in which I miss my husband. Screaming children do not help you sleep. Go figure.

In our relationship, I have always been clingy. I have since needed to let that go, which sounds much easier than it is. My expectations of marriage often included spending blissful free-time together. When that free-time started to look different than I had expected, I was discouraged. A lot of growth came through third shift. We both learned to deal with noise control, let go of expectations, and persevere through the hard days. With a new game plan, we can handle them better.

Noise Control

If your spouse works third and is having a hard time sleeping during the day, there are a few cheap products that are game changers. One of our biggest changes came with the beautiful ear plug. Small, but powerful. A sleep mask also helped cancel out the light streaming in during the day. I found a nice pack on amazon for $10, and the last one I bought came with earplugs. Bonus! They help me sleep at night as well, as I do not wake up to bright headlights from the roads around us from living in a trailer park.

Another tool you might find useful are wireless earbuds. My husband uses them to listen to rain sounds while he sleeps. He plays the sounds from YouTube, of which there are many great options. I use an app named “Calm” to help me fall asleep. “Calm” has a wonderful free version with stories, music, breathing exercises, and many natural tracks to help you find the right recipe for your sleep success. The paid version has even more options, but it is not necessary to find something that works for you.

Immovable Expectations

Expectations are even more difficult to manage than quality sleep. At least they were for me. It took a lot of time and grace to intentionally give up my expectations. The perspective shift I needed was two-fold. First, I needed to recognize the depth of God’s love for me. He loves me so much to give grace for every mistake, and He holds the power to do so. He looks past the ugly overwhelm and worry, and looks at my heart instead. Second, God sees my husband in the same way, and He expects me to extend the same grace to my spouse. If we have been forgiven, we must react by forgiving others.

So when I had hoped to go somewhere or had made plans to check something off my to-do list, and my husband is simply too tired to do it, I have to give grace and let it go. Anything less puts more weight on both of us, which sends us both into burnout and we accomplish even less. We end up in exhausted loneliness with zero willpower. The way to motivate people, and especially yourself, is through finding the unique ways in which you feel refreshed. This means better habits and time-outs when you are overwhelmed. Our bodies are not made to respond to more stress and pressure to do better next time.

Perseverance

Willpower is created through short moments of rest. No rest, or not enough, causes our willpower to dwindle. Too much rest causes our willpower to be untrained and ineffective. The balance takes practice and attention to what is happening in this season. More stress, such as having a baby, means more rest is needed. In these seasons and on those hard days, I cannot will myself to keep going. Instead, I have to pause for a timeout before I can continue on. Otherwise, I will seep frustration and worry into every other part of my life.

The right kind of rest matters too. Watching our favorite shows might restore our physical body, but it continues to stimulate our mind. Music, however, calms the mind and body through rhythm and encouraging language. Of course, negative reinforcement can come from music too. If you are trying to stop drinking, then Margaritaville should not be on your playlist. Creative endeavors without expectations, such as coloring books and Play-Doh, are a great balance of mindless repetition and positive reinforcement to remind your mind and body that you are going to be okay. It disengages your fight or flight response.

Get Away To Pray

I often find encouragement through the small moment in the gospels when Jesus takes time to get away and pray. Daniel also prayed habitually in the morning, and this seems to give him the relationship he needs to persevere and find boldness throughout his life. Next week, I hope to look more deeply at Jesus’s prayer life, but for now, I hope you can find intentional prayer time so you can fulfill the plan God has to bring glory to himself through your boldness in faith.

Matthew 14:23

23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

If your schedule is all over the place from trying to manage third-shift, an early morning prayer can seem impossible. For the first time in years, I woke early this morning and did christian yoga with a new YouTube instructor: Caroline Williams. Caroline adds scripture to traditional yoga sequences for a thoughtful exercise to focus your mind on Christ. I have only done one sequence so far, but it was very encouraging and engaging. A great way to start the day if you are able to wake up early or have kid-free time.

Prayer changes how we perceive our life. If we can get God’s perspective, even third shift can’t change His sovereignty and plan for our lives. As I continue on and try to embrace patience and kindness, I pray I would learn from this season as God prepares us for things I cannot now perceive. Maybe we will even get to stay on first shift one day. One can only hope.