Working the night shift full time is hard, physically and mentally. Most nurses these days are alternating between days and nights every so often as well due to staffing issues or starting as a new grad in a position called a “rotator,” so you work on both continuously for at least a year.
Our bodies were not meant to be awake all night. Since the dawn of time, humans have slept and woke with the rise and fall of the sun, so when you try to reverse hundreds of thousands, even millions, of years ago.
While it’s “unnatural” for your body, it’s necessary for some nurses to work the night shift. Whether it’s for professional or personal reasons like childcare. There are some ways you can help make this as seamless as possible and as easy on your physical and mental health as you can!
1. Get as much sleep as you can
Resolve to yourself that you may not get much done on these days like house chores or errands. Sleep as much as you can before and after a night shift! The more sleep you have, the less likely you’ll feel the effects of sleep deprivation later
2. Try to cluster your night shifts together
Do two or three in a row if it’s possible. Trying to have a day or two off in between often messes with your circadian rhythm and prevents you from being able to sleep much before your next shift.
3. Stick to a routine
How you prepare for your night shifts every week matters! Most studies show that this differs for almost everyone. Some people stay up late and sleep in very late the night before their first night shift while others get up very early the morning of their first night shift and go back to sleep around noon for an extended nap. Find what works for you and stick to it!
4. Treat your mornings like they are nights
This means no screen time before bed, keeping your room as cool and dark as you can and having a wind down routine! Doing this EVERY time before you go to sleep, whether it’s morning or night time, so that your body and brain associate it with sleeping.
5. Eat healthy foods and drink lots of water
As tempting as that coffee at 3 am is, try to avoid it! Pack lots of healthy snacks for when you get hungry to avoid those fatty and fried foods that will leave you feeling bad later!
Adding these five things into your night shift routine can really help you feel your best and not like a zombie shuffling through your life!
Alison Shely is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogger, and healthcare worker wellness.
Visit her website for coaching details and other writing samples.
Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.