Surviving the morning shift

February 14, 2017 01:30

By Nikki Burdine, RTDNA Contributor
Surviving the morning shift; surviving being the key word. No one really ever gets used to waking up at 2am. You just get less angry when the alarm goes off. Or you don't, and you learn to channel that sleep-deprived rage into something productive. 
I've had every single shift in the news business: My first year in the business I started as a morning reporter, one-man-banding and struggling through the day. But I was in my early 20's, and my body operated on less sleep pretty easily. My second job I was dayside, and I was constantly getting 8 hours of sleep. (Can you imagine?) My third job, I started as a morning reporter and then made my way to dayside.

In the beginning, I loved the morning show. I really enjoyed it, being live all the time, the buzz of a fun morning show, my awesome co-workers, and then getting off work by noon to hit the gym and run errands without the rest of the world. Even though I'm no longer on that shift, I think I nailed down a pretty good plan of action and problem solvers.

Problem #1
Going to bed before the sun goes down.
This is hard for most of us, whether you are single and dating, a parent and spouse; quite honestly a human with a pulse. It's simply not normal to go to bed at 6:30pm. But to be successful on the morning show, you have to make yourself get some z's.
Side note: Some of you are #blessed and don't require 6-8 hours of sleep (not me). If that's you, skip this section and move on. And please be kind to those of us who are not chipper without sleep.
Moving on... getting to bed and actually falling asleep at 6:30pm requires planning and discipline. It starts with a full day. What I mean is, don't get off work and take a nap, don't go spread-eagle on the couch. Go to the gym, run errands, cook dinner, whatever. Stay busy and get as much out of your day as you can. If you go home right after that morning show and take a nap, you will sleep. It will be glorious sleep. Sometimes a solid 3 hour nap. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. The problem is it's also 5pm and you have to go to bed in an hour and a half, and after that marathon nap, that simply won't happen. 
If you can struggle through those afternoons and have an early bird dinner, you will hit that bed so hard and your body will thank you. 
But if you're like most busy-bodied journalists, your mind is still spinning with story ideas to pitch, sources to call, etc. To calm your mind, I've nailed down a few tricks. 
  • Melatonin! This stuff works. It's an all-natural sleep aid that will help you get those z's without an addiction. I used to be a big fan of sleep aids like ZQuil, etc, but after reading one-too-many studies about those non-habit-forming pills leading to early on-set dementia, I backed off. Melatonin is safe.

  • Eye mask, black out shades: I love a good silk eye mask that won't squish your skin and lead to wrinkles. Black out shades will come in handy during the summertime late sunsets. Trust me.

  • Calm yourself: There are several pillow sprays, chest rubs, etc that actually really do work, (maybe it's in my head, but whatever helps!).

  • Extra treat: I also found something heavenly called 'sleep chocolate.' Yes, chocolate that helps you sleep. It's basically a chocolate-covered melatonin, so don't double-up with your regular dosage.

  • There's an app for that: I know this sounds silly and new-agey, but the power of mindfulness is having a moment and it's perfectly timed with our need for sleep. And yes, there's an app to help you with that. I like Calm and Headspace. It's just another way to help get your mind right - so you can wind down.
For more on specific products I use, head on over to my personal blog

Problem #2
You miss your social life. Yeah, this one is rough. But there are alternatives.

Happy Hour is your friend. Most people not in the news business can dip out of work early on a Thursday or Friday for happy hour, that was always my go-to.

(Bonus: That glass of vino is a great sedative. But not too many - drunk sleep is not rested sleep.)

Lunch dates were also really big with me, after work I would meet someone on their lunch break (maybe some chardonnay on the side, please).

Do you have strategies to make the morning shift work for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Next time, we'll look at the positives and negatives of the morning shift, and how you can do your best work.

Nikki Burdine is a reporter at WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.