Nurses are necessary components of the healthcare industry 24 hours a day, so if you work in a facility like a hospital or urgent care center, you may someday be assigned to a nursing night shift.
At first, you may be devastated to be assigned such a shift. How do you adjust to this unusual schedule when most of America’s workers are on a morning-to-evening shift? Unfortunately, nurses across the nation are on night shifts all the time, and working through the night means doing your part to care for patients in need.
You may be concerned about a lack of rest impacting your performance at work. If you get less than your recommended 7 to 9 hours per night, you’ll begin to experience symptoms of fatigue, including irritability and lack of focus, that can affect your ability to render care at work.
You don’t have to lose confidence. You can still be a reliable, focused, and successful nurse–even at 3 o’clock in the morning. Follow these 3 tips to sleep well and feel rested when your night shift begins.
Make a Routine
Start working on a night shift routine as soon as possible. Your first night of work shouldn’t be the first time you’re awake through the night. You’ll need to “practice” sleeping during the day and staying awake at night to create a new circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle. Select a specific 7-to-9-hour period during which you’ll sleep, and stick to it–down to the minute.
One of the best ways to adjust to a night shift is to practice staying up late. Progressively go to sleep later and later over the course of a few nights until you make a new routine of going to sleep after dawn. The facility you work for should give you a few vacation days to adjust to your new shift.
Consider eating a filling meal right before your shift begins. When your body digests food, you’ll get more energy and mental focus to work through the night. On that note, come up with a new meal routine that still involves 3 filling meals per day.
If you have a family that works or goes to school during the day, try to rest while they’re away. Not only will you have fewer distractions to keep you awake, but you can spend evenings with your loved ones before your night shift begins.
There are steps that you can take to improve your sleep. While almost nothing can guarantee you get wonderful rest every single night, these tips from Medical News Today can increase your chances of sleeping well.
First, block out the sunlight. Your body naturally responds to light and darkness and will sleep better in a dark room. Invest in blackout curtains or shades so no sunlight enters your bedroom during the day. Wear sunglasses on your commute home after your shift to train your brain into becoming sleepy, rather than perking up all over again.
Don’t watch TV or scroll through your phone right before bed. Electronic light, like sunlight, encourages you to stay awake. Try reading a book or magazine, meditating, or writing in a journal before sleep–all of which will encourage healthy rest.
Also, watch your caffeine consumption. While caffeine can boost your energy levels and mental clarity during your shift, drinking too much caffeine can affect your ability to sleep during the day as well. Avoid having sodas, coffee, tea, or chocolatey foods close to the end of your shift.
Finally, avoid eating close to your new bedtime–especially fried, sugary, processed, or spicy foods. These foods can actually interrupt sleep. You may even feel indigestion during your sleep shift.
Be Clear About Your Needs
Finally, be clear with your supervisors about your personal health needs. If you’re having difficulty adjusting, let someone know. They may offer more advice, or even refer you to a specialist who can provide assistance with your sleep troubles. You can even ask to alter your work shift so that it ends in the middle of the night or begins before dawn–rather than being an entirely nighttime cycle.
If your family or other loved ones under your care have specific needs, be clear about this as well. Sleeping during the day may not be appropriate for your lifestyle, and you should speak up about this before your first scheduled night shift. While nursing is important work, you have other priorities outside of your career.
There may be a chance that you aren’t as suited to working at night. Night shift nurses are under a great deal of stress and have to make extra efforts to get enough rest. If you feel that you can’t work at night, consider applying to work in an 8-to-5 office setting. Many medical specialties, like dermatology and gastroenterology, have offices that are only available during regular business hours.