Tips for earlies

djack123son

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31 Mar 2020
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Woking
Hello all..

Only this week I finished all my coaching and became productive.. but I have already fallen victim to not being up on time and essentially being absent and my work going to someone spare.

Can I please ask for advice as to what you do to ensure you're up on time?

I know its as simple as "set an alarm" or "wake up".. but I have zero confidence in my ability to be up in time for an early and would probably opt to stay up all night, which isn't really sensible.

Many thanks.
 
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RailUK Forums

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Get a smart light bulb like Philips Hue and set it on a timer to do a "wake up routine" so the light gradually gets brighter for 10/20 minutes before your alarm. I find this helps hugely, normally meaning I wake up a minute or two before my alarm goes off and as I woke up "naturally" I find the getting up and getting ready part easier.
 

Highlandspring

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I’d second that, a smart bulb set to come on (though I have it come on at 100% brightness rather than slowly, so I’ll have to try that). Set just one loud alarm and double check the alarm is set for the right time before you go to bed, put it out of arms reach so you have to physically get up to turn it off. Never never never never never press snooze, roll over or go back to bed, once you’re up force yourself out of bed no matter how much you want to go back to sleep. You just have to become very disciplined about it.

I‘ve always done shifts but I really struggle getting up early (and struggle to fall asleep because I get so wound up about waking up in time) and these tips have helped me keep my job over the years. You’ll get there, it’s all about developing a routine and finding what works for you.
 

Papa

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Don't wake up too late on your lates and rest days, keep your meal times consistent. Swinging your wakeup time from 1100 to 0300 in a few days messes up your circadian rhythm as does erratic meal times.

Also avoid alcohol which messes with your sleep architecture.
 

skyhigh

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Get a smart light bulb like Philips Hue and set it on a timer to do a "wake up routine" so the light gradually gets brighter for 10/20 minutes before your alarm. I find this helps hugely, normally meaning I wake up a minute or two before my alarm goes off and as I woke up "naturally" I find the getting up and getting ready part easier.
I use this technique and it really helps me, particularly in the winter when it's so dark in the mornings.
I‘ve always done shifts but I really struggle getting up early (and struggle to fall asleep because I get so wound up about waking up in time) and these tips have helped me keep my job over the years. You’ll get there, it’s all about developing a routine and finding what works for you
This is me as well - I always worry I won't wake up on time, but it's never happened yet (touch wood...!)

I tend to find that getting into a routine for a block of earlies helps me as well - so all week I'll go to bed and get up at the time for my earliest shift, so I'm always ready and fully awake by the time I start work. Eat at the same times as well, if possible.
 

driver9000

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This is a way of life that many struggle with when they first come into the industry. You need to develop yourself a routine that involves going to be bed earlier when you're on earlies and your TOC should have guidance on things that can be done to ensure you get adequate rest. As others have said avoid alcohol (you should be anyway if you're safety critical), try to keep meal times consistent, ensure your bedroom is dark (blackout blinds are great) and keep a routine. I set 3 alarms 15 minutes apart when I'm on earlies and have everything ready the previous night. You're not the first to sleep in and you certainly won't be the last.

If you're going to struggle with earlies you could try to find a colleague who will swap shifts with you.
 
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sei108

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Hi all just having a read through - sorry if this is an obvious question but what is the element of ‘eating at the same time’ about? Is it something to do with digestion or just to help support routine? I have done a lot of shift work and done a lot of the usual things people do to cope but never heard about eating at the same time. Thanks all
 

driver9000

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Hi all just having a read through - sorry if this is an obvious question but what is the element of ‘eating at the same time’ about? Is it something to do with digestion or just to help support routine? I have done a lot of shift work and done a lot of the usual things people do to cope but never heard about eating at the same time. Thanks all

It's supposed to help maintain the natural rhythm of your body and keeps digestion ticking over nicely. Messing with that rhythm can lead to other health problems down the road and shift work is not something our bodies are designed to do.

When I came home from working nights I would eat cereal before going to bed having eaten our main meal with the family before going to work.
 

L401CJF

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Not the world's most helpful answer but I'll give my personal way of managing!

I don't work on the railway, I drive buses but work similar shift patterns to a lot of rail staff and have done for 7 years - earliest start at our depot is 0430 and latest finish is 0110.

Unlike most people, I hate working earlies. It's nice to finish early on a sunny day but I find them particularly difficult in winter when it's ice cold, have to defrost the car, then work in freezing cold for an hour or 2 until the bus warms up. It is nice to finish early, but then I find by tea time I'm knackered and like having my evenings to chill and watch TV, which isn't really possible when you have to be asleep by 9pm!

When on earlies I go to bed nice and early the night before to try and get 8 or so hours sleep, set literally 6 alarms spaced at 5 minute intervals in the morning (the last one being the time I HAVE to get up, still giving me plenty of time to get ready and get to work in good time).

I've been late for work once in my 7 years due to oversleeping, and that was after doing something like 10 earlies on the bounce mid winter which really messed me up.
When on days/afternoons/lates etc I usually get up around 8am to take the kids to school, so I don't Generally take huge lie ins.

I usually follow my roster with a few exceptions. Im not sure if in your work place you can swop shifts with colleagues, but I can and do to help balance my clock. The week before my late week is always an early week. I always swap these earlies for another week of lates - mainly because unlike most I prefer my lates.

Often you'll have a week of earlies with a random day shift thrown in, or a random afternoon shift thrown into a week of lates, or a random early thrown into a week of afternoons etc. Where possible I swop any oddities in the week to a shift that matches the rest to help keep things consistent.

This is of course what works for me and may not for others but thought I'd share.
 

sei108

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It's supposed to help maintain the natural rhythm of your body and keeps digestion ticking over nicely. Messing with that rhythm can lead to other health problems down the road and shift work is not something our bodies are designed to do.

When I came home from working nights I would eat cereal before going to bed having eaten our main meal with the family before going to work.
Thanks for replying - makes a lot of sense now! I generally tend to be bad with eating full stop, will eat very small portions when i do eat maybe that’s why i have never noticed that element! I have done soo much shift work over the years i feel my body has automated waking up early even when i don’t need to - annoying at times!
 

Economist

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For me, at least, the trick is being able to start sleeping earlier the previous night, which can be difficult. You'll want at least 7 hours of sleep, ideally 8. However, the human body clock runs on a 25-26 hour cycle, not a 24 hour cycle, so lates to earlies is harder than earlies to lates.

If I'm on an early the next day, I'll make sure I have at least half an hour of intense exercise during the day. I'll generally eat slightly less since the day will be shorter and I don't want to sleep on a full stomach. I'd recommend finishing dinner at least an hour before bedtime. Have some camomile tea and read a book for half an hour before going to sleep. Set two alarms 5 or 10 minutes apart for the morning.
 

Busyboy89

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14 Nov 2018
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I always set my alarm out of reach so I have to get out of bed then once I’m stood up it’s easier to motivate myself if that makes sense

must admit mrs doesn’t appreciate it sometimes when it takes me a little longer to get up
 

dctraindriver

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9 Jan 2017
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I find like many others the night before my first early is the most troublesome one to get some sleep.

My final rest day I get up really early and try and keep busy all day.

If I don’t sleep particularly well so be it. I accept it and don’t wind myself up trying to get some sleep.

The trick I’ve got in relation to getting up on time is setting 3 alarms on my phone next to my bed, plus 2 alarms on the other side of the bedroom on an old iPad so I have to physically get up.

I’ve been late once on an early shift, never since using the above plan.

And btw I find I get up normally after the 2nd alarm goes off.

You may feel a bit critical of yourself, try not too. Most people have been late, it’s why there’s cover. Don’t overthink or worry about it.
 

Undiscovered

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I set two alarms, one mains and one battery, 10mins apart (just in case I do snooze) and when the first one goes off, up and in the shower.
Prep all your kit the night before, including lunch, so it's just coffee and go. I eat at work when I get there, usually 15mins before book on proper.
If you have difficulty sleeping, get an eye mask. Makes a big difference in keeping all the evening light out.

It'll never get easy, just less difficult.
 

Lincdsg

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26 Jan 2017
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I would echo what others have said regarding the light coming on, and gradually getting brighter until the alarm goes off. More often than not I am completely awake and get out of bed before my alarm even goes off. I have to get out of bed to turn the main alarm off and I also set 1 alarm on my phone just incase I get back into bed, and also as a backup incase there is a power cut and my main alarm fails.

I have never been late and I try to make this a point of pride, I hate the thought of being late so this motivates me to get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. I also aim to get to work around 30 minutes early, so if I did sleep in, I've still around half hour built in and can get to work on time.

I have done shift work for 12 years now and I can honestly say my body has adapted to it. When I know I am on early the next day, I start to get tired at around 1800 and go to bed between 1900 and 2000. If I am on nights, I start to get tired around 1400 and go to bed and get a few hours sleep.

In the morning, the best advice is to get out of bed to turn the alarm off and do not get back into bed for a few more minutes sleep, once you are up you are up
 

Jon1930

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15 Jun 2019
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Hello all..

Only this week I finished all my coaching and became productive.. but I have already fallen victim to not being up on time and essentially being absent and my work going to someone spare.

Can I please ask for advice as to what you do to ensure you're up on time?

I know its as simple as "set an alarm" or "wake up".. but I have zero confidence in my ability to be up in time for an early and would probably opt to stay up all night, which isn't really sensible.

Many thanks.

Do permanent afternoons, much better. Sleep when you like, wake up when you like, never tired at work, and you can get every Sunday in
 

r1_biker

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25 Mar 2013
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And I would recommend a white noise sleep sound for falling asleep. There is a reason it works for babies.

Also our natural rhythm is on a 45 minute cycle of up and down, so dont start panicking if you dont fall asleep in 30 minutes flat.

And no caffeine for 5 hours before bed time.
 

Tube driver

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keep your alarm clock on the other side of the room and get one with the most annoying and most grating alarm noise as possible.
 

4F89

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First of the week, get up, stay tired. Try and sleep better. Fail. Have a messed up body clock all week.

Week 2. Repeat as above.
 

r1_biker

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25 Mar 2013
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First of the week, get up, stay tired. Try and sleep better. Fail. Have a messed up body clock all week.

Week 2. Repeat as above.
Week 3 . Start on lates, struggle because been on a early pattern.

Week 4. Start to get used to lates just in time to go back to earlies.

Repeat week 1.
 

LokiB

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I'm not in the industry (yet hopefully) but have various shift patterns in my job now.
I have a fitbit watch that has a silent vibrating alarm, I set a few different alarms on this 10-15mins before my proper alarm goes off.
I find it wakes me slightly which makes it easier to get up when the proper alarm sounds.
 

Red Devil

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Monday morning 3am ish start after finishing after midnight on a Saturday. I find that sorts out the men from the boys!
Seriously, all suggestions offered above are very worthy and trying some and seeing what suits is worth the effort
 

choochoochoo

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I find the taxi driver calling my mobile once they're outside my house a very useful way to wake up !! - That's if you're lucky enough to have a taxi agreement.
 

DA1

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I can only echo what people say above. When I’m on earlies I get up early the day before and then go to bed early (sometimes doing an activity that day to tire me out). I set 3 alarms a couple minutes apart but always make sure I get up on the first alarm and turning all the lights on to get as much light through my eyes as possible. Once your up I find it’s then easy to breeze through your shift. If you have a nap after don’t have a long one as that’s when trouble hits and you can’t sleep in the evening. You’ll find your own way and get into a routine eventually.
 

r1_biker

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I find the taxi driver calling my mobile once they're outside my house a very useful way to wake up !! - That's if you're lucky enough to have a taxi agreement.
It might also be worth, if you can, programming your mobile phone so it turns itself on and off from silent mode automatically
 

the sniper

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Do permanent afternoons, much better. Sleep when you like, wake up when you like, never tired at work, and you can get every Sunday in

Totally agree. Too many people end up off ill or messing up through tiredness, jeopardising their careers because following the shifts is seen as the done thing in this industry. If 'fatigue management' were actually taken seriously, permanent swaps would actually be actively encouraged. As it is, a run of Lates, a 0045 finish Sunday morning to 0400 start Monday will always be a silly thing to 'manage'.

The only downside is dealing with the drunks every week.

True, the Saturdays in particular can become a grind if you can't get/stay comfortably numb to it.
 

craigybagel

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Totally agree. Too many people end up off ill or messing up through tiredness, jeopardising their careers because following the shifts is seen as the done thing in this industry. If 'fatigue management' were actually taken seriously, permanent swaps would actually be actively encouraged. As it is, a run of Lates, a 0045 finish Sunday morning to 0400 start Monday will always be a silly thing to 'manage'.
Add me to the list of supporters of permanent lates. After nearly 10 years on the railway across various front line roles, I took the opportunity as a fairly new driver to do permanent late shifts, and I love it. My sleep is so much better, and as a result I enjoy my time off work so much more - instead of spending every second week feeling tired all the time, and spending my evening after work constantly clock watching to make sure I try (and fail) to get enough sleep before the next days shift.

There are downsides of course. Others have mentioned the downsides to late shifts in general, and I suspect if I had kids i might not enjoy it so much either. Where I am, in order to work permanent lates I also have to do twice as many night shifts as the other drivers in my link - which is fine for me as I enjoy our night shed shifts, but some may find that difficult. And of course, not every company offers it or has a shift pattern that permits it. Even for those that do, it may not be offered to nearly qualified staff until a certain amount of time has passed.

It's also worth pointing out that in general, early shifts are preferred by the vast majority of rail staff - there probably is a good reason for this, but other than family issues I cannot for the life of me work out what it is!
 

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