You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5 a.m.

For workers on graveyard shift, daytime is bedtime

By Dear Abby


I just read the letter from a fellow frustrated night shifter, "Working a 40-Hour Week at Age 73" (Dec. 20). I have worked 12-hour shifts for many years to accommodate our family life. It is easier for me to be home in the morning to get the kids to school and be home when they get off the bus in the afternoon. I have the early evening free to get them to their activities, then go to work later.

I thoroughly agree that the rest of the world does not understand! I've had the strangest requests from people because I'm home during the day. My solution has been to turn off our home phone and sleep with my cellphone on (in case one of the kids gets sick at school or some other dire emergency). This year I made a laminated sign for my front door, asking for peace and quiet. It says, "Please do not ring my doorbell. Night-shift worker sleeping at this time." -- SLEEPLESS IN WISCONSIN


Thanks for your letter. Your fellow night shifters were in complete agreement with you. My newspaper readers comment:


There's nothing unusual about "Working's" problem. I worked the graveyard shift for years at different jobs in different states, and it was exactly the same. In my case it was usually my mother, not my husband, who kept waking me up. Even worse, it wasn't unusual for bosses to call and wake me.

What surprised me was the number of people who think that sleep is optional rather than necessary. They seemed to think that they sleep at night because there's nothing else to do. -- LAURA IN POLLOK, TEXAS


Many people don't understand night workers' schedules. Relatives would announce that they were coming to visit during my working weekends despite the fact that I'd specifically explained my schedule. My husband would snipe at me in underhanded ways. When I finally confronted him, he admitted that he "subconsciously" felt that someone sleeping during the day was lazy.

Working nights is tough. The Harvard Nurses' Health Study has discovered that night workers get less rest even if they get a good day's sleep, that we make less melatonin and we die younger. -- R.N. IN CONNECTICUT


I sympathize with "Working." I also work a graveyard shift so I can be home with our newborn and not have to put him in day care eight hours a day. It's hard for people to understand that even though it's daytime for them, it's my night! I found myself running errands, marketing, etc., because I felt guilty being at home all day and "doing nothing." It took its toll on me until I got to the point where I could barely function.

I finally had to get over my issues about being home during the day and realize that I was putting in a 40-hour week just like anyone else. Since I didn't expect to do my chores at 3 a.m., I would no longer let anyone expect it of me. I still sleep in shifts to keep my son's time at day care to a minimum, but when I sleep, I don't let anyone interrupt. The world is going to have to wait until I get up.

Please tell "Working" not to let anyone make her feel guilty. Everyone needs sleep, and she shouldn't have to justify it to anyone. -- FELLOW 3RD SHIFTER IN INDIANAPOLIS


I worked nights for years. My husband's friends thought they were being funny when they'd call me at 7 a.m. asking, "How's the 'bat' doing?" One night at 3 a.m. I called each one of them to ask how they were doing. After that, I never received an early call again.

My husband didn't respect me either. He wanted me to get up at 7 a.m. to watch our son so he could play golf. I finally divorced him. -- FULLY RESTED IN NEW MEXICO

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)