Carpe Diem

There is something about the end of a set of nights, a heady euphoria resulting from the combination of sleep deprivation and sunlight shining in sun-starved eyes. It’s partly satisfaction, partly relief, and partly a penchant for freedom. It makes even a grey day a masterpiece and brings a smile to the face and a tear to the eye.*

There are bad bits too. The drive home, the buzz at the edge of your consciousness that warns you that your reflexes are impaired, your thinking is slowed, that you are at risk. Getting home to eat and trying to decide how to pay your dues – do you build the sleep-debt, make a 30-hour stint of it? I went shopping for dinner at the end of a run like that once and came home with 2 loaves of bread, 3 bags of apples, some squash and no dinner. Do you sleep away a couple of hours, but feel terrible for the remainder of the day? Or do you pay your debt to dreamland, acknowledging that you shall not sleep that evening? I’ve tried them all. There’s no right answer.

Ignore it. Worries are not the point of the post-nights experience. To walk out of the hospital at the end of a set of nights, during which you have had no life other than to eat, sleep, eat, work, is to cut yourself loose for a time. Be free of your work, take some time. Your sleep debt justifies almost any indulgence. There is, literally and figuratively, never a more appropriate time to seize the day.

Is the world not beautiful?And as you fellow nightpeople will know – never has the world looked so beautiful.

*primarily because after 13 hours in the relative dark, simple daylight is painful to behold and squinting makes you grimace.

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5 responses to “Carpe Diem

  1. Stay up all day and go to bed early (what I do now I am old). Or sleep all day and then head out for a fantastic night on the town and deal with the night shift jet lag next day with a hangover (how I used to live).

  2. If S is on night shifts with a particular friend of his, they finish a set of nights with a champagne breakfast! Then he tries to stay up all day to ‘reset’ and may or may not then at least attempt a night out. From my various experiences of sleep deprivation or working in the wrong time zone, I do not understand how he does it.

  3. I couldn’t do it. There were some internal jobs recently advertising for night shift staff. The idea of being permanently off-kilter to natural body rhythm, not to mention the rest of the world, does not sit easy with me and I imagine could get quite lonely. Sets of shifts is something different, but still. Rather you than I.

    Champagne breakfast sounds awesome.

  4. I wouldn’t do it permanently. I don’t mind them in the short term (and I enjoy the change in work and the strong team aspect) but I suspect I will mind them a whole lot more in ten years.

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