tired healthcare professional in dark room lit by computer screen
Career Development August 21, 2020

By One of the most physically demanding parts of being a nurse is having to do a night shift. Some RNs take on night shifts quite regularly which can lead to trouble sleeping and waking, irritability, and drowsiness. While a lot of people have trouble fully adjusting to this work style, here are some ways to make the transition easier.

How to Get Through Your Night Shift (Naturally!)

One of the most physically demanding parts of being a nurse is having to do a night shift. Some RNs take on night shifts quite regularly which can lead to trouble sleeping and waking, irritability, and drowsiness. While a lot of people have trouble fully adjusting to this work style, here are some ways to make the transition easier.

During Your Shift

Avoid Energy Drinks and Soda

When you have a long night shift (heck, even during the day!) there’s always the temptation to reach for sodas or energy drinks. The problem is not only the exaggerated amount of caffeine they have but the extensive list of ingredients that are barely pronounceable. While they may give you a short boost, in the long term, the sugar and toxic ingredients will cause more harm than good.

Drink Some Caffeine but Watch Out When

Contrary to what some people will say, drinking coffee can have health benefits and help keep you awake throughout your shift. The important thing to watch out for is at what time you drink that caffeinated goodness. Coffee’s effects can last in your body up to six hours after you drink it so make sure you only have it at the beginning of your shift. Otherwise, it may keep you awake when you actually want to get to sleep. Instead try drinking some tea during your shift if you still want something warm in your stomach.

Eat Light, Well Balanced Meals

Do you remember how you feel after eating at Thanksgiving? That heavy drowsy feeling you get is great when you can take a nap or sit back and watch the game but it’s not so great if you have to be alert and on the go. Instead of eating a big meal, spread them out throughout your shift so you never eat too much at once. Instead of reaching for a muffin the size of your head, make sure whatever you eat is balanced in protein and carbohydrates and obviously, the more fruits and veggies you can incorporate, the better.The key is to eat nutrient rich foods with a mixture of things that will keep you full and energized for hours to come.

Move Often

While many of you will have to be on the go all the time, others may be stuck in front of a desk doing paperwork for hours on end. Those that are going to be sitting down for long periods of time should get up every once and awhile and stretch your legs. Take a quick break and talk to your coworkers or just walk around at least every hour. Doing so will help you keep awake and not turn into a zombie.

After Your Shift

Block Out Morning Light

When you go back home try to block out as much light as possible because the morning light will trigger your brain to wake up and it will be harder to get to sleep afterwards. Try wearing dark sunglasses on your drive home so you don’t get too much sun and you can start mentally preparing for bed.

Go Straight home

This one may be hard to do but instead of running around doing errands after work, just go straight home and try to catch up on sleep. Getting enough sleep is the quickest way to not be so cranky when you actually do have to stay up. Having a set schedule for sleep within your different work schedule is important for getting quality rest.

Keep Your Room Quiet, Cool, and Dark

This may seem obvious but the more comfortable and inviting you make your bedroom, the more likely it is that you’ll go to sleep. Not only that but keeping the environment in your home the most relaxing as possible makes for better rest. That means letting your family know that when you get out of work, they shouldn’t bombard you will problems or anything that could keep your mind preoccupied.

We know nurses work really hard to help others and hopefully with these tips, they can be little bit more rested while they do so!

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