What is a Night Shift? (With Definition and Tips)

Updated March 21, 2023

Night shift helps companies provide essential services to their communities. Night shifts also allow businesses to serve customers in different time zones, operate efficiently and maximize profits. Learning what a night shift is can help you understand whether they suit your lifestyle and career goals. In this article, we explore the question "what is a night shift?", describe why companies use it and why employees work it, explore common industries with night shifts, review how to work it effectively, and provide answers to frequently asked questions about the topic.

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What time is the night shift?

Night shift refers to late operating hours in a business. The exact period and hours of the night shift vary with each company. Night shifts can include evening shifts, full-time night shifts, rotational shifts, or any other irregular schedule. For a business that operates 24/7, the night shift typically starts between 8 p.m. and midnight and lasts until 6 a.m. or later. Ensure you confirm the exact hours of any night shift position and understand the exact expectations of the role.

The term used to refer to the night shift can vary but typically include:

  • Evening shift

  • Closing shift

  • Midnight shift

  • Third shift

  • Graveyard shift

  • Overnight shift

Why do companies use night shifts?

Many industries have night shifts to operate essential health care and safety services. Organizations use night shifts to offer their services beyond the typical eight-hour workday. Some industries use night shifts to maximize production. Other businesses use the night shift to extend their working hours and provide convenience to their customers.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Work Shifts? (With Duties)

Why work the night shift?

Night shift positions offer personal and financial benefits to many employees. Businesses often pay premium wages to people working the night shift to reward them for working an irregular schedule. As a night shift employee, you can help your community, especially by working in essential services.

Industries that use the night shift

The following industries usually have night shift positions:

Emergency services

Many cities have emergency services available 24/7. They may require employees who are available to provide services on short notice. Examples of emergency services workers include police, paramedics, firefighters, doctors, dispatchers, and nurses.

Related: EMT vs. Paramedic: What's the Difference?


Many businesses need overnight protection of their assets. They hire security professionals to provide surveillance and patrol to keep the premises secure. People providing overnight security services need to pay attention to detail and respond quickly to a situation.

Read more: The Duties of a Security Guard (With Job Description Example)


The transportation industry has jobs on the night shift to accommodate overnight cargo and travellers. There is a great demand for people who can safely transport travellers or packages. Some positions that have overnight shifts in the transport industry include flight attendants, air traffic controllers, pilots, taxi drivers, freight drivers and bus drivers.

Related: How To Become an Air Traffic Controller

Customer support

Companies can address customers' concerns through 24/7 customer support. It helps increase their products' value, offers customer service in different time zones, and helps to attract and keep customers. Information technology specialists and customer support representatives are common positions with night shifts in the customer support industry.


The hospitality industry has night shifts to accommodate travellers who arrive late at a hotel. Many hotels have employees available at all times to attend to the guests and provide room service or other assistance. Working at a hotel may require some night shifts so that someone is always available to help guests arriving late. Clubs, bars, fast food, and sit-down restaurants sometimes have night shifts and may operate until 2 a.m. or offer service 24/7. Restaurant staff may work until 3 a.m. or later to provide service and cleanup to prepare for the next shift.

Related: Types of Hospitality Jobs (With Primary Duties and Salaries)


Companies in the manufacturing industry have night shifts to ensure a smooth and efficient production floor. Both entry-level and supervisory positions work night shifts. People working the night shift in manufacturing companies conduct proper machine maintenance to ensure safety at all times.

Food service

Many fast-food businesses and diners operate 24 hours a day, and many restaurants stay open until late. Night shifts enable businesses in the food service industry to serve late-night workers in various industries, among other customers. There are typically fewer night shift positions compared to regular positions for people in the food service industry because of fewer customers during that time.

Related: Top 14 Careers in the Food Industry (With Salaries)


News stations need employees available 24/7 to gain and publish news as it occurs. The public can learn about urgent situations during late-night news broadcasts, as these stations typically operate at all hours of the day. Some common positions with night shifts in the news industry include news journalists, traffic monitoring, and international reporters.


Retail stores can operate 24/7 or until late to offer quality service to customers. They also need employees to do maintenance tasks, inventory, fulfill orders and provide security. Retail positions can involve inconsistent schedules and work during night shifts.

Related: 9 Common Jobs in a Grocery Store (With Duties and Salaries)

How to adjust to working the night shift

Now that you know what a night shift is, the following steps may help you adjust to working the night shift:

1. Manage your sleep patterns

At night, many processes in your body slow down to prepare you for sleep. Working the night shift means you go against your natural sleeping patterns, so you may need to ensure you have a healthy sleep cycle. Some of these steps include:

  • Ensure you get seven to nine hours of sleep after your night shift

  • Avoid delaying going to bed

  • Eat and drink before you go to bed to avoid hunger and thirst when you wake up

  • Avoid consuming alcohol before you sleep as it affects your sleep quality

  • Try to avoid smoking before you sleep because nicotine is a stimulant and keeps you awake

  • Avoid engaging in activities that make you more alert after a night shift

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and has a comfortable temperature

  • Talk to your friends and family about your working hours to avoid disturbances

  • Consider taking a nap before your night shift

Related: How To Deal With Burnout

2. Control exposure to light

Light can affect your sleep patterns, and artificial light has the same impact as sunlight on your sleep cycle. Some steps to take to ensure you have a healthy exposure to light include:

  • Avoid using digital devices such as tablets, television, and smartphones before bed

  • Increase your light exposure during the night shift

  • Wear sunglasses on your way home from work

  • Use curtains, drapes, blackout blinds, or a sleep mask to keep the light out of your bedroom

3. Eat a balanced diet

Changes to your daily lifestyle can affect your eating habits and metabolism. It is important to plan your meals appropriately for the day to help maintain good health. Try to maintain an eating pattern similar to the one you have during the day to avoid difficulty digesting foods. Avoid sugary foods and snack on vegetables and fruits, as they provide minerals, fibre, and vitamins. Stay hydrated and avoid drinking too many fluids before you sleep.

4. Use caffeine sparingly

Caffeine is a stimulant and can help you stay alert during your night shift. Consume it sparingly because it may increase the risk of muscle shakes and digestive issues in high doses. Avoid consuming caffeine at least six hours before your bedtime.

5. Take naps

Naps can help you stay alert and work safely overnight. Take a short nap before the start of your shift to help you combat fatigue. If you have any breaks during your shift, it also helps to take a nap to help you maintain alertness. It is also important to regulate how long you sleep. Try to nap for about 20 to 45 minutes. Longer naps result in deep sleep, which takes time to feel refreshed and alert after you wake up.

Related: How Do You Stay Motivated When Working Late? (With Tips)

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Frequently asked questions about night shifts

Here are some of the most common questions people ask about working on the night shift:

Is the night shift bad for your health?

Working the night shift affects your natural sleep patterns. Managing your sleep can help decrease the impact of the night shift on your health. Failing to manage your sleep patterns can cause a higher likelihood of accidents, poor mood, and even obesity. It's possible to manage your sleep schedule while working night shifts, but it may take some time for your body to get used to the change. Regularly conduct a self-assessment to stay aware of how it's affecting your health and your mood, and take steps to adjust how you manage your time and sleep schedule outside work.

Related: What to Do if You're Always Tired at Work (With Tips)

Do night shift employees earn more?

Whether you earn more during a night shift depends on your employer. There are no legal requirements regarding this, but it's a common incentive. Some employers give their employees a higher pay rate while working the night shift. Confirm with your employer to ensure you are clear about the pay you receive during these shifts.

How much rest do I need between shifts?

You need at least 11 hours away from work between night shifts. Enough rest is important to maintain your natural sleep patterns. Dedicate seven to nine of these hours to your sleep.

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