What is a Night Job?

wiseGEEK Writer

A night job could be described in a number of different ways. Most often it refers to jobs that occur late at night and into the early morning hours and could be used synonymously with terms like a graveyard job or midshift work. Some variation occurs here, and some people won’t work a full-time night shift but instead could work late hours on a part-time basis.

People who work at night often have trouble sleeping during the day.
People who work at night often have trouble sleeping during the day.

There are many companies that have to or choose to operate in shifts or keep some people around at night. For instance, any hotel is likely to need to have night workers who can answer calls or assist customers staying the night. Lots of industrial work must take place in shifts in order to meet the demands of production, and people might regularly work a night job in manufacturing. Similarly hospitals employ almost as many people at night as they do during the day. Nurses, doctors, technicians and technologists need to be available around the clock, since the needs of those hospitalized don’t end as evening draws near.

In many employment strategies, companies have either two or three shifts. In the two-shift configuration, employees might work twelve-hour shifts and the night job would belong to the person with the mid or late shift. In a three-shift scenario, three shifts of eight hours each are designated. The first two are day and swing shift, and the third is night shift or mid shift.

Depending on who is interpreting the definition, swing shift may or may not be considered a night job. It does usually end at about 11pm or 12 am, though this can vary. Some people only think of graveyard or midshift as night work.

One of the reasons that many people are attracted to night job work is because it may pay a slightly higher salary. A standard mid-shift or graveyard shift is likely to offer a differential percentage for taking a night job. This differential may vary among employers and could be as little as nothing to up to about 30% of base pay.

As attractive as extra pay sounds, those who routinely work a night shift are getting a little more than a higher salary. People who tend to work these shifts do find themselves out of step with most of the rest of the world, and may try to compensate for this by shorting themselves on needed sleep. Failure to get appropriate sleep can lead not only to tendency for more worker mistakes, but it can have negative effects on health.

Several studies have looked night job worker health and particularly find there are greater instances of sleep problems and much greater risk of developing high blood pressure. This would suggest that those who must or who voluntarily take a night job consider how to best protect sleep. Fortunately there are some good strategies for protecting sleep health during the day.

Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - I think the main difficulty with that is that most people have a part time night job or one that works on a roster so that they never have the same hours. It's kind of hard to work out a schedule when you don't know what it's going to be from week to week.

I think there should be a law that night shifts are standard hours, myself, because a lot of night shift workers are driving trucks or working in health care and the last thing you want is a bunch of exhausted people doing that kind of work.


@KoiwiGal - I think it's bearable as long as you make the kinds of adjustments to your lifestyle that night work jobs require.

Firstly, you'd have to be very strict about the hours that you sleep. Put a note on the door and leave the phone so it will go straight to your answering machine. Secondly, I would invest in some proper blackout curtains, or sleep in a room without windows, so that you don't have any light disturbing you at all. That way you can trick your mind into thinking that you're actually sleeping at night.

Go to sleep at the same time every day and try to find one of those alarm clocks that has a rising sun simulator to wake you up.

Finally, and this one might seem a little bit bizarre, make sure that you've got a blue background on your computer if you're going to be using it. Bright blue makes people feel like they are looking at a daytime sky, so it wakes them up. Which is why people shouldn't use their computers just before bed, but that's another story.


I've heard people tell me that you just never get used to working the night shift. Even if you are working it for years, you never get to the point where you can sleep properly during the day and feel completely alert at night.

It actually worries me a little bit, because I know that tiredness can dull reflexes to the point where someone is basically acting like they're drunk. So if there are a lot of night shift jobs in an area I wonder if that leads to an increase in car accidents.

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