Tips for Surviving the Night Shift

Bucking your biology and working the night shift can take some getting used to. Here are some tips to make transitioning to nights a little easier.

The human body is naturally programmed to be awake during the day and to be asleep at night, so bucking your biology and working the night shift can take some getting used to. Follow these tips to get into a new routine that will make transitioning to nocturnal nursing a little easier.

Set Yourself up for Some Good Sleep

Hang soundproof, blackout curtains to keep as much noise and light out as possible. While the panels won’t completely mask the sound of your jerk of a neighbor cutting their grass early in the morning, or keep out 100% of the blazing midday sun, they will definitely make a marked difference in helping your body adjust to your new nocturnal life. For the remaining sound and light, use ear plugs and an eye mask to completely daytime-proof your sleep. Also, make sure your room is cool—between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit is the recommended temperature for optimal sleep—and before you settle into bed to catch some z’s, pop a Melatonin tablet and put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode, if possible.

Stay Awake After Your Shift

Set up your schedule so you stay awake for a few extra hours after work and awake shortly before your shift to maximize your alertness on the job. Waking up and beginning your shift early in your so-called day will leave you feeling more energized, as opposed to crashing as soon as you get home and trying to pack in activities prior to working. Just as you would get up and go to work for a day job, plan to do the same when working nights, so you won’t be dragging on the tail end of your shift. Use the time after your shift to run errands, get in some exercise, prepare meals, or even go on a breakfast date with your significant other or your friends, if their schedules allow.

Pack Energizing Foods

Night shift nurses typically see a bit more downtime than those working days, when patients are awake and eagerly pressing their call buttons, so you might find that you have more time for meals and snacks than when you worked days. Use this to your advantage and fuel your body to keep you in top shape, mentally and physically, as well as keep your energy up while on the job. Reach for nuts, lean proteins, and dried fruits at the beginning of your shift to get you going, eat small snacks of the same throughout the night to add in bursts of energy, and be sure to avoid carbs until you get home to keep from feeling tired and sluggish.

Avoid Caffeine

This may seem counterintuitive, but reach for water, instead of coffee, to keep your body powered and to avoid sleep disfunction when you’re off the clock. Caffeine may give you a boost in the short-term, but it will eventually lead to a crash. Staying hydrated not only gives you energy, but it helps your brain function, which are both things that will make the night shift easier. If you simply cannot go without caffeine and need to get your fix, make sure you are only consuming it early in your shift to lessen any adverse effects when you clock out.

Stick to Your Routine

Once you find a schedule and a routine that works best for you and leaves you feeling at the top of your game, stick with it—even on your days off. Instead of having to readjust and reset your body clock over and over, keep it on the same schedule, even if you are tempted to flip it back to how it used to be and make use of the daylight in ways you can’t while on the clock. A regular sleep schedule promotes better sleep. Be as consistent as you can be to keep yourself rested and healthy.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.