How To Thrive While Working At Night

Your complete guide to being your best self at odd hours


Apoorva Saboo

2 years ago | 5 min read

Since we live in a global community, digital entrepreneurs are increasingly working in different time zones, no matter day or night.

Either that or you work at a hospital, fuel service station or any other round-the-clock service.

First and foremost, take a bow.

While the rest of the world sleeps, you are going to work. You are sacrificing your sleep routine to build your dream career or make ends meet.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it. By being intentional, working at night can be pleasant, fun and even become your thing.

You need to prioritise comfort and compassion. Remember, you can bet your top dollar that almost everyone working around you will be a grump. No one really wants to work odd hours.

Prepare to be comfortable, kind and forgiving.
Commissioned Illustration by Ayesh Rathnayake
Commissioned Illustration by Ayesh Rathnayake

The Day Before

Working at night is no less than going into battle.

You need an arsenal before you start.

Scout the best places to sleep at work.

Never disregard the off chance of some sleep through a quiet night shift. You need to where and when you could take a quick nap and the location of spare sheets and light switches.

I know this sounds intense but at 3 am, you will not be in a state to explore and optimise your surroundings.

Dress to sleep.

You need to be comfortable at all times.

Imagine, you get a coveted opportunity for shut-eye during your break.

Now imagine you can’t sleep because your clothes are too fitted or your mascara is too dense.

Go through your wardrobe and hunt for the most comfortable yet socially acceptable clothes you can find. Restrict any make-up. If you have an active job, prepare for the worst. Invest in comfortable footwear. Don’t be fooled by the warm weather in your country; get some socks.

Invest in a good quality eye mask.

It transforms a low-quality, hollow sleep to a full-blown power nap.

As a medical student, during my summer elective in Norway, I came across pitch-black curtains in their hospitals. Due to their 23-hour sunlight summers, they had them on to aid sleep, night and day.

After shedding a few joyful tears at how deeply Norwegians cared about the well-being of their health staff, I drifted off to an unforgettable, restful sleep.

Since then, I’ve found success in emulating the same effect with eye masks. I recommend a dark, soft and large enough to cover your eyes completely. You can take it up a notch by buying a fancy, silk mask which has two mini pillows over your eyes.

I often think about the people who came up with eye masks. On a night shift, its comforting to know that someone does care about your sleep.

Get snacks.

We treasure them regardless of the time of the day. But on night shifts, they can be valuable currency.

You don’t only need to feed yourself through the night.


When you’re working in a team at night, all courtesy and restraint are out the door. You share everything. Yes, this does mean there’s less for you and you need to be careful about how much you put on the table.

But, it can also be a way to get your social street cred up.

Find yourself not fitting in or leading a demotivated team? Bonding over snacks on a night shift is the cheapest and most effective work retreat. Choose food that has a universal appeal; all carbs and zero nutrition is a crowd-winner. If you’re a real keen bean, everyone loves fresh baking.

Get this right, and it can do wonders to your work life.

But, be safe, take a personal stash of your non-sharing snacks or a meal too.

Get yourself a large water bottle.

When you feel like the world is against you, which often happens when you work at odd hours, any dehydration is enough for you to pull your hair out. Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of water.

Stay away from sugary drinks. The disturbance in our circadian rhythm creates an overcompensating, hyper-alert survival mode. Being high on sugar may top-up your already delirious, sleep-deprived state.

During the night

No matter where you work, overall, night time is slower, less busy with more free time.

I work late at night. I’m awake and nobody bothers me. It’s quiet and things come and talk to me in silence.
— Diana Gabaldon

Create your oasis

Seriously, night shifts are a highly underrated time for profound, uninterrupted progress. Not only towards your work but more importantly, your interests, side hustles, or simply, your downtime.

Unless you’re a virtual globe trotter, this is a glorious time when you will have fewer notifications and local news competing for your attention.

Use this quiet time to release your creativity in the form of writing, editing or anything else. I have come up with my best-written pieces sitting on quiet wards during night shifts.

Or create quality downtime. Catch up on your reading or listen to an uplifting podcast. Meditate, journal or just stare at a wall. Use the calm of your night for a catharsis of your mind and soul.

Catch up with friends, or, don’t.

Find out which of your friends are also working a night shift and catch up with them. From experience, there is something about the fluidity of night time. People are more open, vulnerable and conversations have an unrestricted flow.

If you’re like me and don’t want to talk to anyone, turn off your phone.

You want me to do what?

Yes, turn off the phone. What are you missing out on? Everyone is sleeping.

Night shifts are the best time to start your digital detox and reduce screen time.

After your night

You made it!

Don’t deprive yourself of a little victory dance.

Now, get serious about arranging some well-deserved, quality sleep.

Take a warm shower

Whether or not you take showers before you usually sleep, they have a tremendous power to relax you after a night shift.

The warm flush of water over you allows a clean break from your night and signals your brain its time to slow down into rest.

You can jazz it up by adding any aromatherapy soap such as lavender, patchouli or ylang-ylang.

Consume something nourishing

It is tempting to treat yo self to something greasy after a night shift. From years of experimentation, my advice to you is to focus on eating light, natural and nourishing.

Reaching for a cheesy Mcmuffin is tempting, but opting for a high-protein option with simple carbohydrates will keep you satisfied for longer.

Light options such as a Buddha bowl with whole grains, grilled vegetables, easy eggs on toast or granola with fruit will spare you the lethargy when you wake up. You can also add in a cup of chamomile or lavender tea to relax.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Check-in with family and friends

When you work nights, it’s easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world merely because you’re sleeping when they’re awake and vice-versa.

Connecting with your loved ones can help you remember your life beyond the seemingly never-ending night shifts.

Key Takeaway

Although it may seem like it, having to work at odd hours is not the end of the world, and you’re not alone.

The key is to prepare well and be comfortable.

There is quite literally light at the end of the tunnel once the sun rises.

Published originally on Medium by Apoorva Saboo

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Apoorva Saboo







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