Newsweek had a bit this week about how adults should get nine to ten hours of sleep each night. I don't know if that would be possible for most working people, and I know that it is not possible for me. On days that I work, I put in a twelve hour shift. My commute takes a minimum of forty minutes* in the car - but add in time it takes to get from the house to the car, get out of the car and to the timeclock, and back again, and you are adding nearly two additional hours each day to get to and from work. So if we add to this fourteen hour workday the minimum recommended nine hours of sleep, we are left with one hour in which I may eat breakfast, eat dinner, make lunch, use the bathroom, take a shower, and maybe sometimes get gas, stop at a grocery store, and perhaps go online.
Is it any wonder that, in practice, I sleep only four to five hours each
Needless to say, this sleeplessness takes a toll. By the end of the third day of the rotation I am ready to drop from exhaustion - the often-mentioned "Thirdday Blues." Days of overtime just make things worse. On days that I am working my mental functions drop dramatically, and it is sometimes all I can do to get home safely, all the while eating grapes and drinking diet colas to keep me awake. I have never had an accident** or incident in all my years of commuting related to fatigue or drowsiness, though if a certain red light camera was functioning this morning, that streak may end.
I refer to myself as being "non-existent" on the days that I work. It's the way I feel on those days, and it's a hell of a way to be. As you might guess, it takes quite a toll on your personal life. People who are used to having other people around weekends and evenings can't easily comprehend the schedule of someone who has different days off each week, and has to roll all his weekends and evenings and everything else into those days. As a bonus, working night shift leaves me in a nocturnal state, and I find it difficult to get to bed before 3:00 in the morning or up before 9:00.
All that is scheduled to end no later than this December - earlier, if I can find something. Unfortunately, the only offer I've had so far involves trading one form of non-existence for another kind - one which will leave me with even less time to myself. I'm going to keep looking.
*My commute used to be 33.3 miles each way. Like clockwork. Every day and a half was another 100 miles. For years and years. And then I checked one day recently, and the door-to-door distance came out to 36 miles. Through all the little jogs in the road that have been added recently in highway projects, nearly three additional miles have been added to each one-way commute, an additional six miles a day.
**I was rear-ended twice at the same on-ramp on my way to work under identical circumstances: while waiting for an opening in heavy traffic I made a false start and had to stop again as the approaching traffic accelerated. The person behind me assumed I was gone and merged into the next available opening in traffic without checking to to be sure that the way in front of her (in both cases it was a her) was clear. Both of those incidents happened to my old car, that merge no longer exists, and that part of the trip has been removed from my commute.