Working the night shift means you must balance many aspects of working while others sleep.

Balancing a Marriage and a Night Shift Job

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Working the night shift can boost your income, provide opportunities for you to go to school or work to improve your family’s future, and enable you to work in a laid-back environment with fewer interruptions, less supervision, according to an article in the October 1981 “Monthly Labor Review.” Working the night shift can also contribute to marital difficulties, because it requires a balance between work and marital life, and it can also contribute to health issues.

Arranging Schedules

When you and your spouse are on different schedules, this difference in schedules can create challenges in your marriage. It might seem that you and your spouse are like ships passing in the night: When you’re awake, he is asleep and vice versa. It can take planning and cooperation to have time together, or even to share meals together. If you’re the one working the night shift, try breaking your sleep up into two parts, such as sleeping four to five hours when you get home, get up and spend time with your family and then catch a two- to three-hour nap before you go in for work, suggests the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Emotional Health

Working the night shift can lead to depression, feelings of isolation, anxiety, irritability, mood disorders, trouble sleeping and waking, difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, and an increase in accidents and substance abuse, according to WebMD. Talk to your spouse about these factors and agree to listen and respond if there are problems in behavior or health that either of you are missing. Take an exercise class together, sleep together when you can, make time for physical intimacy and do things for fun. See a mental health worker together if emotional health issues are causing problems in your marriage.

Physical Health

Shift workers are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, ulcers, heart attacks and strokes. Shift work can also make conceiving and maintaining pregnancy difficult. Together you can stay healthy by communicating about health concerns, such as feeling unwell or medical test results that indicate an increase in health risks. Include your spouse in your efforts to avoid health risks by choosing a healthy diet, taking prescribed medications and adopting a healthy lifestyle with exercise. This is especially true if you are working the night shift and trying to get or stay pregnant.


Despite the financial benefits shift work can bring, it can make it difficult to communicate with your spouse, especially if you mostly meet each other coming and going. Take time to talk with your spouse about how you feel and avoid isolating yourself in an effort to get sufficient sleep. Talk about the problem if the shift work is interfering with your marriage and discuss whether it’s time to request a different shift, change jobs or shift schedules to spend more time together. Seek counseling if you need it so your marriage remains a top priority in your life.

Conflicted Moms

Families where mom is the primary breadwinner are more financially prosperous, according to a May 2013 study from the Pew Research Center -- but it won't make you feel better if you worry that your kids and husband need you. This is a common concern of working moms, according to the Pew study .Speak to your spouse and kids about ways to spend more time together doing enjoyable activities and ensuring that everyone's needs are met. If you can swing it, consider taking a year -- or more -- off to be home when your kids or husband need you most, despite the financial hit you'll take. Other options include working part-time, arranging to telecommute part of the time or switching to a daytime shift. These options allow you more family time and fewer concerns about your family situation when you work a different schedule.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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