The Graveyard Shift is a series chronicling how professionals with some of the strangest hours get their rest.
VICE has operations in 30 countries with more than 500 full time employees and thousands of contributors, all of whom are constantly pushing stories, videos, and other content through to the web. The ingest operators at VICE work as kind of curators of that material, converting footage to a consistent company standard and uploading it to servers for later use.
For the last six months, Tamar Boodaghians has worked as a night shift ingest operator, coordinating with offices across time zones and losing a lot of sleep in the process. We talked to Boodaghians about how he sleeps.
MOTHERBOARD: What does a typical week's work schedule look like for you?
Boodaghians: My scheduled hours are 6 PM to 3:30 AM. For the last six months it's only been me, so sometimes it's later than that. It depends on if it's urgent or not, sometimes I'm there till 4, sometimes till 6, it can vary.
It's really hard because nobody is around when you're awake, and everyone's awake when you're asleep
What did you do before? Were the hours more normal?
I have never had a job with normal hours. I worked for a morning radio show for awhile. I was doing the reverse and leaving my apartment at 3:30 to get to work at 5 and here I'm leaving work at 3:30. I've never had a normal schedule.
How has this affected your sleep schedule?
It has totally messed it up, as you can probably imagine. The worst and best thing about humans is that we are adaptable, so you can adjust to this schedule but it's terrible and can affect you in many different ways.
The first three months were the hardest—it affected me physically. Now it's a little easier but it's kind of just—you can't turn it off and on, you can't be a person on the weekends and go back to doing it during the week. It feels like you're in a perpetual state of jet lag. You are six hours behind everyone else.
Usually when I am heading home to sleep, everyone else is going to work and I'm like, maybe I'm in another dimension of space and time. It just feels really strange.
What are your sleep habits like? What does a typical routine before going to sleep look like for you?
What I've noticed is that if you work a normal 9 to 5 or 9 to 6, you don't immediately go to sleep, so there needs to be some down time, some decompressing. I come home and sometimes I eat something, or watch something, and try to get to sleep.
It's been hard because when you train your body to not feel tired or work through tiredness, you feel tired in different ways. I often don't feel tired in that I want to sleep––I feel weird and angry and loopy and out of it, but not tired enough to go to sleep. It's just a disturbed rhythm you can get used to it.
Have you ever used any sleep aids?
It's been really hard, I've been trying different vitamins like melatonin to knock myself out and sleep during the day. I can't always take a bunch of anti anxiety meds to knock myself out to stay asleep. I've taken Xanax, I've taken Ativan, sometimes Tylenol PM, Benadryl, anything I can knock myself out with I can give it a go.
Has this affected your social life in any way?
It's made it pretty terrible. It's really hard, I think, even coming from someone who's not that social to begin with. I don't need a lot of social interaction. I wouldn't go out much anyway, but it's really hard because nobody is around when you're awake, and everyone's awake when you're asleep.
There are weeks where I don't talk to a single person. That's been hard. It's hard for my partner too. We don't see each other ever and I just get home and crawl into their bed when they're asleep and it's like, why did I even come here.
But there are some good aspects. On the weekends it's like I don't have to take drugs to stay out until 5 AM because I do that anyway. So it's fun on the weekends because I can go pretty hard.
When you go on vacation or aren't working do you have to readjust to normal hours?
I have and it is really like anything else. Like if you come back from Europe and you try to live in the US it doesn't really work. That happened over the Christmas holiday. I went home, I took a morning train after work and slept on the train and I felt so awful.
It definitely is a goal of mine to work during the day
Your body changes. I felt nauseous. I couldn't eat anything. It's just really difficult for me to turn on and off. Of course, after the four days I got used to it and of course then I had to go back to the night schedule.
How long do you plan on working this shift?
Not forever. It definitely is a goal of mine to work during the day. I knew when I signed on it was an eight-month commitment and I'm nearing that point. It can be any time between eight months and a year, one coworker did a full year. I would like to switch to a daytime job eventually.
What else have you learned from the night shift?
One other nice thing about it is that you get to see this entire different world, you see shit you would never see otherwise. It can be really serene and quiet, and it's New York so it's usually fast-paced, but you'll be taking a bus home with just three people. It can be nice. but it's definitely a personality thing––it isn't for everyone.
You'll Sleep When You're Dead is Motherboard's exploration of the future of sleep. Read more stories.