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Everything Great (And Not So Great) About Third Shift

What can you get done while the world is sleeping?

Third shift isn’t for everyone. Even if you are a night owl who thrives on the night shift, it’s not meant to be for life. Most people never think about working the third shift. Seventy-five percent of the world starts their workday between 6am and 10am every day.

For many, it’s just unnatural, sleeping while the world buzzes, and working while the world sleeps. But for millions of Americans, there are quite a few reasons why people choose the graveyard shift: emotional and financial benefits, privacy, less traffic, and more focus just to name a few. But there are also certain health issues you should monitor as you work through the wee hours of the morning. Let’s take a dive into what happens on the graveyard shift.


An estimated three million Americans now work third shift – between 11 pm and 7 am. An additional four million employees go to work during the evening shift, and even more work floating or erratic schedules that include night work. One in five employees in the U.S. works nonstandard hours, like evening, night, or rotating shifts.


Ziprecruiter says that their number of postings for jobs that require overnight shifts was almost fourteen times higher than was average before the pandemic hit. Clearing the backlog of supply chain issues and meeting growing consumer consumption demand has fueled the need for overnight workers. 


The rate of night work is still highest among blue-collar workers, particularly service workers (including those in security, food services, manufacturing, and cleaning services), with 6.5% of the 11 million service employees working night shifts and 10.8% working evening shifts.


  • A higher salary: Many companies offer shift differential, or more pay, for working hours outside of the first shift. WSI is not an exception, as most of our clients offer $1-2 more per hour to work overnights. It adds up quickly. $16 extra dollars per day over a 52-week calendar year is more than $4000 in extra salary.
  • You can grow your career faster: Most third shifts operate with a smaller staff than the first or second shift. This means you’ll have more opportunities to cross-train on jobs, gain new responsibilities, explore different areas of the business, be exposed to various projects and ultimately make yourself a more well-rounded employee. Overnight employees tend to be less micro-managed as well.
  • A better work-life balance: Working overnights allows you to be able to make those doctor visits or other errands or appointments that can only be done during the hours of 9am to 5pm. It gives some parents who share the load with child-care a chance to sleep while their kids are at school. Many parents are able to put their kids on the bus each morning, sleep during the day, pick up kids and have dinner with them each evening and even tuck them in before heading off to work for the night. 
  • The option to go to school during the day.  This is the ultimate in discipline and time management. Many third-shifters find working overnight and going to school during the day is the perfect way to work their way through college. Third shift allows in-person classroom attendance and a chance to grow your skills or develop them for a new career path. How you get your homework done, we have no idea!
  • Privacy – It’s no surprise that some on the third shift aren’t the biggest fans of other people. You’ll find some who get anxious around large groups of people that typically work the earlier shifts. Working overnight gives you a chance to increase your productivity without stress or distraction. Less people means more focus on the task-at-hand, less meetings, and best of all, a faster commute!



Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. A Circadian disruption, a disturbance of biological timing, is believed to be a cause of many health issues for people who work the third shift for multiple years. 

In a recent National Toxicology Program report, it was concluded that there is “high confidence” that persistent night shift work that results in circadian disruption can cause human cancer. Chronic sleep loss has also been shown to be a contributor of high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes.


Prioritize Sleep: On average, third shift workers get 45 minutes less sleep than their 1st and 2nd shift peers. Make a focused effort to go to bed at the same time each day and to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep per night  day.

Get Your Family on Board: Make sure members of your family know when you’re sleeping, and when you’re awake. Post a schedule or calendar where they can see it. Make sure you find time each day to share a meal with your family as well, as it will fulfill your emotional needs to have connections.

Maintain a routine: Consistency is key to success working third shift. Rotating between day and night shifts could be problematic for your sleep schedule. You should strive to wake up, leave, work, eat, hit the gym, get home and relax at the same time each day. 

Consistent meal schedule: Take your meals at the same time each day. It’s important to have the energy to get through an unconventional schedule. Avoid the cliché of living off of nicotine and caffeine. Stay hydrated with water, mix in plenty of veggies into your diet, and keep the caffeine and sugar to a manageable level. 

Hit The Gym Everyday: The number one way to manage any stress on your body from the third shift is to work out several days a week. Scheduling some gym or fitness time each day will keep you social, healthy, and trim. Many gyms have classes starting as early as 5 am. Working out after your shift may not seem appealing, but it’s a great way to unwind from the day, release anxiety, and you’ll sleep like a champ.

Third shift can be a lifestyle. The extra pay and daytime availability are terrific perks. Take good care of yourself, maintain a strict regimen, and be pushing to find an exit at some point to avoid sacrificing your health.

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