COLUMBIA — While some might enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, Gary Stewart typically enjoys a glass of beer.
Drinking beer at 7 a.m. isn’t that unusual for Stewart, though — that’s when he’s just about to get off work.
“It’s humorous to me to not have anything else to do that day and have a beer and watch everybody else go on their day,” Stewart said.
Stewart works the overnight shift at Uprise Bakery, preparing and baking the daily bread. Stewart took the overnight job to develop his baking skills, with ambitions of one day owning his own restaurant. His shifts at Uprise normally run from midnight to 8 a.m.
For Stewart, the sleep schedule of working a nocturnal job was one of the most challenging aspects at first.
“My longest time being up is 48 hours at this point,” he said.
Since his start, Stewart has been able to adjust to the schedule fairly well, he said. When at work, he tries not to drink caffeine, and he listens to music during most of his shift.
Stewart doesn’t force himself to stay awake until a certain point, but instead sleeps only when tired — usually split up into two sleeping shifts during the day.
“I quickly got to the point where I could sleep on command, whenever. I couldn’t do that before,” he said.
Stewart sleeps in a windowless basement room where hardly any natural light enters. While waking up in darkness might seem problematic, Stewart said his internal clock has been able to adjust.
“I’m not kidding myself anymore,” he said. “I know I sleep during the day, so I want a dark place to sleep to feel more normal about it.”
Despite our bodies' natural instincts to be awake during the day and to sleep at night, the nocturnal lifestyle isn’t as strenuous as it’s made up to be — at least in Stewart’s case.
“You know, it’s just different,” he said “It’s not terrible. On my nights off I still get to go stay out late with my friends.”
While Stewart manages his nocturnal lifestyle fairly well, he doesn’t plan on sticking with it in the long run.
“I told myself I was going to do this while I was young and while I was able to," Stewart said. “But I don’t necessarily see myself working overnights forever.”