Monday, November 21, 2011


The National Sleep Foundation defines shift work as any schedule that falls outside standard daytime business hours. Factory workers, hospital staff, police and firemen, aircraft pilots, road crews, and yes--writers--commonly perform shift work.

Working off hours, especially between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. goes against the body’s natural sleep/wake rhythm. Consequences can include health problems, irritability, work-related errors, and increased accidents. Working extended, excessive hours can add to the problems.

It is common for writers to work late into the night after coming home from a day job. How can they mitigate the untoward effects of their self-imposed shift work?

1. Decrease the number of night shifts worked in a row.

2. Avoid overly-extended work hours as much as possible.

3. Avoid frequently rotating shifts; have a consistent writing schedule.

4. Get enough sleep on days off from writing, and do not start a writing stint when sleep-deprived.

5. Caffeine and wake-promoting prescription medications may have a role in maintaining alertness, but getting enough sleep is a better plan.

Maintaining your health while doing the shift work that writing demands will require planning and pacing—for yourself as well as for your manuscript!

Elizabeth Knowles Palladino writes a monthly column, WriterCare, for the RWANYC newsletter.  She lives in Kingston, New York, where she works in health care and writes medieval romance.

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