Waking Nights: A Guide for Care Live in Carers


If you are a live-in carer or aspire to be one, you may be interested in knowing what’s it like working nights and waking nights in live-in care. For care workers doing night jobs, this article will answer some of the common questions that come up when considering night work.

We're here to help. Call us if you have any questions about our exceptional live-in care.
020 3870 4220

Who Is Overnight Care For?

The clients for overnight care are usually elderly individuals who have difficulty performing basic tasks by themselves. This usually involves going to the toilet by themselves, changing positions during the night and more. Many times, these individuals may have reduced mobility and/or vision and are at risk to suffer serious injury if they have a fall. This can be an especially risky situation if they encounter such an event during the night when no one is around to help them.

Another type of clients for overnight workers includes patients with illnesses like dementia. Such people are already in a difficult situation due to their disease, but it can be especially debilitating during the night because they are prone to losing track of time and place and wandering around or even out of their house at times.

Individuals who are recovering from a complex medical treatment or surgery in their homes also often require overnight care. This care is usually provided by a trained health care provider like a nurse. The tasks these patients may require help with include, changing stoma bags, administering medication, checking vitals, making a trip to the hospital if necessary, and so on.

Overnight care can even sometimes be necessary for younger individuals who suffer from chronic diseases. If they live alone, they might need help depending on how debilitating their condition is. For example, spinal injury patients may need help performing basics tasks. Other young patients may just need a qualified and trusted person to check up on them during the night to make sure they took their medications or in case of emergencies such as an attack or seizure.

Why Waking Night Carers Are Indispensable

In the UK, families are often concerned about their elders staying home alone, especially during the night. Family members can only do so much to help them during these times, as they have their own needs to address. Overnight care proves greatly beneficial in these situations. It ensures that if an elderly person comes across an incapacitating situation during the night, a trusted and qualified person is there to handle the emergency situation.

A benefit for the client themself is a friendly face to ease them during the night in case they are feeling lonely, down, or worried about their well-being. An overnight carer ensures peace of mind for them. This is of utmost importance as a good night’s sleep is invaluable for the elderly, as for everyone else. If not slept in properly through the night, loss of concentration and disorientation may result during the day which may lead to avoidable accidents.

Furthermore, Overnight care can be the singularity between elderly individuals in a residential home or those in the safety and comfort of their home. The overnight worker provides all the care needed for the elderly individual to be safe and healthy in their own space, therefore, the need of putting them in a residential home does not arise.

Apart from being beneficial for the clients, working nights comes with its own share of benefits for sleep-in carers. You can read here to learn more about your legal rights.

What Exactly Is Waking Nights?

The meaning of waking nights for carers is to perform all of the caring duties and fulfil all the needs of the client during the night. It is essentially a nightshift care job of a minimum of at least 8 hours, therefore, a waking night carer (sometimes referred to as overnight care provider, private night worker or simply night carer) needs to be awake and alert the entire night in case the client needs them. It is suitable for clients who feel like they require a lot of assistance during the night, for example, they often wake up disoriented or need to go to the bathroom quite frequently.

What Does a Waking Night Support Worker Do?

The waking night care job description includes that the night support worker is awake the whole night even if the client is asleep. And in the case when the client is awake, the night care worker should provide assistance, as often as needed. Consequently, waking night support worker duties can include assistance in the toilet, making the bed, administration of medicine, checking vitals, etc. Another key part of the night support worker's job is to assist the client during early mornings and evenings, this can include but is not limited to mealtimes, upkeep of hygiene, assistance in changing clothes and keeping the client company. And lastly, since the night support worker is awake during the entire night, the client can assign them a list of duties that they can perform during this time, this can involve any kind of duty that is normally performed during the daytime, for example, domestic duties like laundry or washing dishes.

A waking night support worker has different duties/working hours from that of a live-in carer or a 24-hour care worker as discussed in the next section.

What Does Sleeping-In Live-In Care (Sleep-In Shift) Mean?

The sleep-in night meaning entails that the sleeping night carer is present throughout the night, which is usually not a problem as sleeping-in night care is provided by live-in care workers or 24-hour care workers who are already present during this time anyway. However, they are allowed to rest or sleep during the nighttime for a minimum of at least 8 hours but can be woken up to two times. Consequently, they are available to provide day and night care assistance for their clients. During the sleeping nights, the client is mandated to provide the care worker with a private bedroom and a place to keep spare clothes and essentials also access to the kitchen and a bathroom.

What Does a Sleeping Night Support Worker Do?

A sleeping night support worker (sometimes referred to as overnight sleep-in carer) has a limited role in the night care of the client. As this is the kind of care a client usually picks if they rarely need assistance during nighttime but prefer to have a helping hand just in case they ever do. Therefore, sleeping night care work includes providing assistance to the client up to two times within the limit of a sleeping night care job. This way the sleep-in carer’s topmost responsibility is to provide the client with peace of mind. This peace of mind will ensure the client does not suffer from anxiety and gets a good night’s sleep. Otherwise as mentioned above, this kind of care is usually provided by a live-in care worker who has many other responsibilities throughout the day.

Another category of night carers is night sitters.

What Is a Night Sitting Service?

A night sitter’s job includes visiting the client’s home at any assigned time during the hours of the night and checking on their condition and if they need any assistance. These visits can be up to 30 mins or longer to cover any needs that were agreed upon. A night sitters list of duties can include checking on the client, monitoring their vitals, administering medicine etc. They are also available to come and check in on the patient more than once.

Waking Nights & Respite Care

In a case where a client has already hired a waking night support carer who assists them during the night, an overnight respite is designed to give these care workers a break from their duties for a few nights. Agencies can set the client up with a short-term replacement whilst their regular waking night support carer takes a break to recharge and recuperate.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Do Night Shifts?

You must be at least 18 years or older in order to work a night shift in the UK. This is in accordance with the governmental law in the United Kingdom which states that workers younger 18 than cannot work between midnight and 4 am. This has been specifically modified for care workers and hence minors cannot work between 10 pm and 6 am as carers.

How Much Do Overnight Night Carers Near Me Get Paid?

The law regarding overnight care rates in the UK is very intricate. First of all, all-night work according to the governing law is from 11 pm to 6 am. To qualify as a night worker the worker must work at least 3 hours during the night period stated above. A night shift should be 7 hours long and include midnight to 5 am. The night worker must draw a written agreement stating all of this.

The waking night pay rate depends on whether the overnight carer is expected to sleep or work during their hours at the client’s house. Overnight workers are entitled to the minimum wage in the UK for working during the night. The law regarding sleep-ins states that workers that are expected to sleep during most of their night shift e.g., sleep-in shifts, will receive minimum wage for the hours they are awake whilst workers that are expected to stay awake during the entire night shift e.g., waking night staff, will get paid minimum wage for all hours of their shift, even if they are allowed sleep on the job, or are not working all the time.

Following is a summary of sleep-in rates for carers in 2021

25 and over21 to 2418 to 20Under 18Apprentic
April 2020 to March 2021£8.72£8.20£6.45£4.55£4.15
April 2019 to March 2020£8.21£7.70£6.15£4.35£3.90
April 2018 to March 2019£7.83£7.38£5.90£4.20£3.70
April 2017 to March 2018£7.50£7.05£5.60£4.05£3.50
October 2016 to March 2017£7.20£6.95£5.55£4.00£3.40
April 2016 to September 2016£7.20£6.70£5.30£3.87£3.30

What Is the Sleep-In Policy for Overnight Care Workers?

On top of the usual rules relating to maximum working hours and breaks, night workers have a few additional guidelines. The employment law regarding night shifts states that overnight workers are not permitted to more than an average of 8 hours in 24 hours. The average is calculated over 17 weeks. However, it can also be calculated over 52 weeks depending on the employment agreement. Overnight workers are not allowed to ignore this rule.

Moreover, with night work, there is a chance of getting paid for hours the worker may spend resting. Additional pay is often given to those with better qualifications or training such as nurses, but the rate is usually the same during the night as it is for the day.

Dr Jamie Wilson
Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Hometouch
Dr Jamie Wilson is hometouch’s founder and Chief Medical Officer. Jamie’s creation of hometouch was inspired by his work as a dementia psychiatrist in the NHS, and he has written about healthcare issues in The Times and the Evening Standard. Jamie has a MBBS from the University of Leeds and has spent a decade in the NHS, working as a Psychiatric Registrar and Memory Specialist at Imperial College Hospital.