I'm pretty sure that this is a problem shared by all shiftworkers, the curse of the "First Early".
These are especially tough after a block of leave (like today) when your circadian rhythm has slotted back into real days and real nights, like a real human being. What happens is this:
You know that you have to be up at 3 or 4 am, so you have tea with your family and go to bed early, (with a full stomach, which doesn't really help). There you lay, in bed, with the noise of a family evening going on around you. TV downstairs in the background, Kids playing in the bath, having a tantrum about putting on pyjamas or which story is going to be read.
After half an hour, of no sleep, you pick up a book or read Twitter. (Actually Twitter is the worst possible move at this point as you get to see everyone else's normal life and get jealous. Or a contentious political link and get angry. 20 minutes later and you are nearly an hour down on the sleep you planned.)
So you try again, and another half hour later, just as you are staring to get drowsy, someone else will start their bedtime routine. Not noisy, they know you news your sleep. But just that quiet hum of an electric toothbrush will at this point keep you from proper sleep. Or the sound of the shower will make you want to go to the loo. None of this is avoidable, and none of it would rouse you when you are tired enough to crash at 6pm for your 2nd or 3rd early shift. But this is your first attempt to change your body clock, so you are doomed!
Once the other half is in bed, you eventually drop off, no earlier than you would on a normal evening. But this is your first early, so you are subconsciously waiting for that alarm clock. As a result, your sleep is lighter, you hear everything, and it will wake you. A faint car alarm over a mile away, a couple of cats fighting, your other half snoring. Everything will wake you up, even if you would normally sleep through a bomb going off. The less sleep you manage the more annoyed you become. The more annoyed you are, the harder it is to sleep!
Of course you do eventually get to a proper sleep, but it will be around 45 minutes before tour alarm goes off, right in the middle of the deepest part of your sleep cycle.
Then at work there are always the smug buggers who "like earlies because you get the afternoon off" which is fine if you live just round the corner from work, but I don't, and I prefer to spend my afternoons NOT feeling like a Zombie, thanks!
Edited because this is important:
To clarify, I would not fly if too tired to do so. I take my responsibility to my passengers (and the rest of the crew) very seriously. I would (and have) called in unable to operate because of disrupted/inadequate rest.
This is a comment on the occasional difficulty of obtaining that sleep and the fact that I always find it hardest at the start of a run. I'm often tired, never too tired, but always grateful that the coffee chains are now 24/7 in most airports!
-Blogged from my iPhone
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