Tips for earlies

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Mintona

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In my experience at least, early shifts are generally shorter and there hasn’t been as much time in the day for things to go wrong so you usually finish on time.

I’m 13 years on the railway this year and I’ve not got used to earlies yet. I booked off at 23.52 Saturday just gone and was in at 03.15 on Monday (that’s a 01.30 alarm for me). As a result I’ve been struggling all week. Thankfully I have a day off tomorrow.

With regards to alarms, I set two on my phone, five minutes apart, the first 1 hour and 45 minutes before my book on time. I always get up within ten seconds of the first going off, I don’t need the second. It’s just a backup for if I somehow cancel the first one without properly realising.

If I had a light that came on gradually or an alarm the other side of the room that took me 45 seconds to switch off I think my wife would leave me.
 
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wobman

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After 20 years of doing shifts on the railways and I've also worked shifts in total for 34 years, no other industry works our shift patterns. I can get up 1.30am Monday by Thursday I'm waking at 10am, there's no routine to follow.

Finding a way that works for yourself is the key, we are all different remember. I like a catch up nap in the day to catch up any lost sleep. Some people stay up and to exhaust themselves, it's about what works for you.

Getting up at 1am for 2am starts it's impossible to get 8hrs sleep, going to bed at 6pm especially in the summer is near enough impossible. I try to get 6hrs on the early shifts. I have blackout blinds and blackout curtains, some people wear eyes masks.

I don't drink any drinks that contain caffeine at all, just drink decaff drinks and lots of water to keep hydrated. I never eat big meals at work and graze through the day with healthy snacks.

To get up it's a mains powered alarm clock, set 10mins before the 2nd Mobile phone alarm. Then a 3rd alarm on the mobile incase I snooze the first.

For me it's all about having a good routine
 

EssexGonzo

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Well, not a shift worker but someone who needs to travel regularly (or did, before you know what!) starting very early.

Many alarms and no alcohol was my simple way of dealing with it. I used to set 4 or 5 alarms on my iPhone, ditto on my work phone as a back up. And I got into the habit of sleeping in the spare room when I had a very early start. 5 alarms going off wasn’t good for my marriage.
 

wobman

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Well, not a shift worker but someone who needs to travel regularly (or did, before you know what!) starting very early.

Many alarms and no alcohol was my simple way of dealing with it. I used to set 4 or 5 alarms on my iPhone, ditto on my work phone as a back up. And I got into the habit of sleeping in the spare room when I had a very early start. 5 alarms going off wasn’t good for my marriage.

I had the same issue with trying to use a smart light to wake me, it woke up the wife and she wasn't impressed. The bulb got relegated to downstairs as a result.
 

Twotwo

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I've done shift work for about 5 years now. To be fair, when I'm on earlies I'm quite restless throughout the night as I'm always worried about not waking up thus waking up every hour or so lol. I've never struggled to wake up. I usually end up having a nap in the afternoon. But like what others have said, the first day is always the hardest and then gets easier.
 

BrokenSam

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Exactly this
Haha. These are spot on. The first early is always a killer and I spend most of my night looking at the clock and thinking "6 hours will do"...."4 hours will have to do"...."I can survive a shift on 3 hours"..."I'm not getting any sleep am I"?
 

scotraildriver

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I really think the unions should be looking at rostering practices. Personally I think the latest Saturday backshift finish should be rostered the latest Monday early start time and vice versa. The earliest finishes on the Saturday should get the earliest starts on the Monday. Might just make things a little easier.
 

Mojo

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I’d also say, don’t have a sleep when you get in from one early if you have another early the next day, until it’s actually your bedtime. I find this means that I then can’t get to sleep at a decent time that night and you end up having the same problem the next day.
 

43066

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I’d also say, don’t have a sleep when you get in from one early if you have another early the next day, until it’s actually your bedtime. I find this means that I then can’t get to sleep at a decent time that night and you end up having the same problem the next day.

I’d also echo that. In fact, in my experience of railway earlies, that is the single most important piece of advice. It’s absolutely fatal to sleep after work, better to power through until the evening snd get an early night.

As others have said the first day is the killer and, in my experience, you inevitably find yourself going to work with only a couple of hours of fitful sleep. It gets much easier from day two onwards.
 

357

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I've always been told not to sleep after an early, same as I've always been told early shifts are better...

However for me, both statements aren't true.

I always sleep after an early. I'll get home between 12 and 2 normally, and go straight to bed for a couple of hours.

I'll wake up by 4 at the latest - then get to have a normal evening and go to sleep around 9/10

I can imagine it doesn't work for some - but it works for me - I'm effectively splitting my night's sleep into two. I've an advantage that I can sleep in almost any situation though, if I'm tired I have no problem to fall asleep. Many aren't as lucky.
 

alxndr

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I'm maintenance so my earlies aren't half as early as some of the rest of yours, starting 0600 which is a 0430 alarm for me. I manage to wake up, but feel absolutely broken and fatigued the whole time.

The biggest problem I have is that if I go to be before 2200 then I will wake up, without fail, at 0200 and be unable to get back to sleep for the rest of the night. If I go to bed later so that I can sleep through the night it's not enough sleep. The best I've found to deal with it, for me, is to go to bed between 2230-2300 so that I sleep through the night, and then have a nap for an hour or two when I get home.

I will inevitably feel rubbish the whole time though and if I could never have to work an early shift again for the rest of my life it wouldn't come too soon. In fact, it's part of the reason I'm pursuing a degree!
 

ZNB13

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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.
Don't think you're fit enough for a driver! First week late, what did you do throughout your training?
 

Horizon22

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I’ve never liked them - more of a late person / night owl naturally unlike most of the others in my office. Unfortunately the way the roster works means I can’t often swap shifts and they happen to be on a long stint too..

With that in mind, I do the following: Try and eat meals and reasonable times the night before. Don’t eat just before you go to bed basically. Try not to do something overly stimulating and avoid blue light where possible. Then for your alarms set them as staggered- I’ve got a great alarm app on my phone which gradually gets louder until the time you’ve set.

Ultimstely give yourself extra time to prepare oversleep - work out the absolute minimum time it would take (a quick scrub / no food etc) and more than double it.

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.

Sounds very similar to my approach. I was late once and although my relief was happy to stay (we had a habit of relieving early anyway, so was only a few minutes technically late), it felt bad for the team so haven’t done it since. Especially if I’m relieving someone keen to go home after nights! (I know this doesn’t apply so much to train crew)
 

Stigy

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Set three alarms on your phone, rather than just the one, in case of snooze incidents.

I hate earlies but have never yet (touch wood) overslept. As with what seems like a few others here, I never sleep well on the night before my first one either…always worried I’ll oversleep for some reason. It comes to something when you consider an 05.30 alarm a lie in too!

On subsequent evenings on a string of earlies I don’t have any trouble with sleep as I’m generally knackered. I generally don’t go to bed early enough sometimes either, so I don’t do myself any favours, but I just can’t be doing with going to bed much before 21.30.

Regarding napping, I find 30mins is the max I’ll ever have, as that revitalises me and doesn’t make me groggy. If we start talking hours, it has a detrimental effect. I wasn’t convinced about this approach until I started doing silly o clock earlies, but we were told about it during training and it really does work. Especially mid-shift.
 
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djack123son

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Don't think you're fit enough for a driver! First week late, what did you do throughout your training?
Until my coaching the week before I hadn't needed to leave the house before 7 since November., training school and GIs don't like to start early. I was fine until 3am, but then I laid down next to my son to settle him and went out like a light waking up at 6.. just embarrassing.

I've got 1 week of earlies in the next 10 weeks.. then a newborn coming.. so it's going to be interesting to say the least.

Thanks for the messages from everyone, lots to mull over..
 

Stigy

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Also, if your first alarm wakes you up, get up. Once you’re up you can’t oversleep.
 

Joliver

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Echo what others have said really. For me personally, I much prefer earlies to lates. Getting out of bed at 02.30 doesn't really bother me, staying up past midnight on lates however...

Best advice I could give is to get to bed early, starting a day before if possible. Don't sleep after an early shift either, will muck your sleep pattern up. Power on till 7-8 in the evening then go to bed. You'll be out like a light. I get up as soon as the alarm goes off, once you're up that's it.

Hope you find a routine that works.
 

Ashley Hill

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Two alarms for me. One by the bed and the other across the bedroom. I also agree with others,Sunday off and then stupid o clock Monday morning never works well. Going to bed at 1800 never seems right and I always struggle going to sleep on that first night.
 

Ashley Hill

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One thing I've never done in all my years is rush on earlies (or nights). I've always allowed an hour from the alarm going off to have breakfast and then a S,S&S to walking out the door. Ive always found that if I start the day in a rush then I'm rushing around all day.
 

dk1

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Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones (& hope I’ve not talked it up) but I have never overslept in almost 36 years of shift work. Usually I wake up before the alarm & always get up straight away. Wouldn’t even know what the snooze button does. Sometimes I plan to get an early night but it rarely happens. One thing I never allow myself to do is nap during the day as I then struggle at night.
 

Teddyward

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I set 6 alarms for earlies. Usually wake up before one has even gone off. I give myself 2 hours to get ready go and get there. No rushing.
 

UpRoad

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Get a sonic bomb alarm clock. If you sleep through that. you are dead.
Some people work with the gradual soft wake up.
Some need the wake up shock.
You really need to find what works for you without making you feel groggy.
another technique is to have an automatic coffee machine brew a coffee 10 minutes before you wake up. The aroma helps as you wake up

just one of many sources easily found online.

 
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Emmsie

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That is what I found so difficult, just as you get into a routine it changes, it's like being permanantly jet lagged. I'd find shift work far easier if I started on an early and everyday my shift started a bit later and blended into lates rather than 4 or 5 days of 4am alarms then a few days of getting into bed at 2am
 

Red Devil

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That is what I found so difficult, just as you get into a routine it changes, it's like being permanantly jet lagged. I'd find shift work far easier if I started on an early and everyday my shift started a bit later and blended into lates rather than 4 or 5 days of 4am alarms then a few days of getting into bed at 2am.
Welcome to the railway. Been doing it a while and you'd think I'd be used to it. But still a struggle on a Sunday night,Monday morning.
 
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