In this article we're going to give some night shift nursing tips you can start applying today.
We all know how hard it can be working night shift as a nurse.
Not only is your body programmed to be active during the daytime and sleep at night, but also, it somehow seems that your entire world is going in opposite directions with your family and friends.
Working night shifts can be challenging to many! It definitely requires drastic changes to your lifestyle.
Although the idea may be daunting at first, with a few ahead-of-time preparations, your night shifts can become a lot easier.
Surely, it may take your body some time to adjust to your new schedule, but don’t despair, if you’re consistent, you'll get there!
It’s important to realize that being a night shift nurse can be stressful at times, and a gallon of coffee isn’t going to do the trick.
You don’t want to compromise your health while taking care of others!
The good news is there are some very effective night shift nursing tips to make the most out of your schedule.
After all, remember that being a night shift nurse also comes with a lot of benefits such as better compensation and new experiences.
Check out this article in which we’ve compiled some of the best tips to help you survive night shift nursing.
*disclosure some of the links on this site are affiliate links.
Your Guide to Getting Through Night Shift
There are plenty of ways to stay on track while working night shifts.
At the end of the day, adjusting to night shifts depends on your preparation, attitude, and personality.
The following tips should help you navigate through working the third shift.
Make Self Care Your First Concern
It’s crystal clear that you need to be fit to help others.
During your night shift, patients depend on you to stay alert, sharp, and ready for any emergency. To do so, you have to be in your best condition.
1. Get Adequate Sleep
First things first, getting a good sleep before diving into your night shift is key to stay active and alert.
As soon as you get home, quality sleep should be your first aim.
Normally, working night shift causes confusion to the body and interrupts natural sleep.
That’s why the best approach to this problem is to schedule sleep at regular times and stick to it.
Even on the weekend, you should be sleeping at the same time according to the National Sleep Foundation (source).
Working night shift means that you’ll have to go a little out of your way to plan for good sleep.
One of the things you can do to help you sleep better is wearing glasses (like these night glasses on Amazon) on your way home to avoid daylight.
(keep in mind the ones you do get as some are not meant for driving)
Moreover, it’s important that your room will encourage you to sleep.
For instance, make sure you use curtains (like these blackout curtains
on Amazon) to block out any sunlight so that the room is totally dark.
Also, keep all devices that may disrupt sleep outside of the room and avoid using cell phones, laptops, or watching TV at least an hour before bedtime.
Eliminate noise by using earplugs and getting your family members aware of your sleep pattern.
Finally, try to avoid caffeinated drinks close to your sleep time.
Basically, what you’re trying to do is trick your body into thinking it’s nighttime and it’s time for sleep.
2. Watch Your Diet and Stay Hydrated
Food choice is usually underestimated by many, although it plays a huge role in one’s stamina, energy level, and overall performance.
That’s why making healthy meal choices is key to surviving working nights.
It’s a good idea to eat smaller, lighter meals throughout the shift rather than one large, heavy meal that will leave you bloated and fatigued.
Prepare well-balanced meals of lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats to keep you going.
Salads, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are all great options to snack on.
Also, having an energy bar, some dates, or dried fruits is a great way to keep your energy levels up when you need a sugar boost.
Avoid refined sugars and unhealthy carbs because, after the energy boost, they provide, they’re likely to cause a crash later.
Drinking enough water is essential to avoid feeling tired during your shift.
Always Keep a bottle with you (like this Yeti Tumbler) and have it at hand.
Related Article: 10 Best Healthy Snacks for Nurses
3. Consume Caffeine Wisely
Caffeine is one of the most effective ways to battle fatigue and tiredness.
Drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, or cola can help keep you alert during your shift.
It’s important not to overdo it though as excessive use of caffeine may lead to health problems.
For most adults, 400 mg of caffeine is considered safe (source).
Also, make sure not to drink caffeinated drinks near the end of your shift so you can sleep well.
4. Monitor Your Health
Shift workers face higher risks of chronic illnesses like heart and gastrointestinal diseases (source).
That’s why regular medical checkups and a healthy diet are important to keep track of your health.
Learn How to Manage Your Body Clock
1. Understand Your Circadian Clock
The circadian clock is your body’s internal and natural clock. Your body clock follows a regular 24-hour cycle.
One of the main elements that affect the body clock is light and darkness, which is the way our body distinguishes between morning and night.
The main issue with night shift is that you’re working when your body thinks it’s time to sleep.
That’s why many night shift workers face fatigue, tiredness, and anxiety.
The good news though, is that the circadian clock is somehow flexible and with time, it can adapt to a new schedule.
2. Group Night Shifts
To have a sense of a normal schedule, you should consider grouping your night shift days together for longer shifts.
That way, you can squeeze in more time for your personal life, family, and friends.
For instance, try to group shifts, so you have two or three-day cycles of 12-hour shifts. Although this may be a little tiring, the time off you get will be worth it.
This trick won’t work with everyone though. So, it’s important to experiment first until you can find a pattern that best suits your lifestyle.
3. Give Your Body Time
You’re probably wondering why isn’t your body adapting? It’s important to realize that each body is different, and everyone is going to adjust to night shift in at different rates.
A night owl, for instance, will find it much easier to adapt to working at night when compared to an early riser.
So, it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to others and instead give your body time to get used to your new schedule.
Sticking to a sleep routine and being consistent will help you get there.
Managing Social Life
Nurses and many others who work the night shift may often feel isolated from family and friends.
Being a night shift nurse doesn't mean you have to compromise social life though.
First, it’s critical to get your family and friends on the same page.
Take the time to explain to them that your schedule is different and that their 4 pm is your 4 am. Making sure they understand the way you work will help you guys get past any difficulties.
Scheduling quality time on your day off is another way to stay connected with your loved ones.
Go the extra mile by planning ahead and checking important events like your friend’s wedding or your child’s school party to make sure you don’t miss out on them.
Look at The Bright Side
When you’re working in such challenging conditions, it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of your job.
Practicing mental positivity is a great way to achieve more at work.
There are many pros to working as a night shift nurse.
After a while, you’ll find that night shift usually offers slower-paced working conditions and more time to catch up on paperwork.
That’s because during night shift, sometimes patients are asleep (I know that’s not always the case).
Also, you don’t have administration getting in the way or doctors rounding and throwing new orders at you.
It doesn’t just stop there either. You may find yourself enjoying the family-like environment and less human traffic of night shift.
Night shift nurses are also usually paid higher, which is a great pro.
Because you work nights, you’ll find yourself catching up with family and friends like taking your kids to school or having early breakfast with a few friends.
Whatever the benefits are, practicing positive thinking will impact your career and your life as a whole.
Tips for Staying Awake During Your Shift
Now that you’re as prepared as you can ahead of your shift let’s look at some ways to stay awake during your working hours.
1. Keep A Conversation Going
What’s better than an interesting chat with your co-worker to keep you from dozing off?
Not only will having a conversation with your co-workers keep you awake but also, you’ll be able to share tips on how you manage to work at night.
As an added benefit, this will help you bond with your co-workers, which is something you’ll need as nurses have a high-level of autonomy and depend on each other drastically.
The better the communication between you and your fellow workers, the smoother your night experience will be.
2. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum isn’t an involuntary movement like breathing, for instance. It requires your brain to work, even though you may not feel it.
That’s why chewing gum can be an excellent way to keep you alert.
3. Essential Oils
Just like some essential oils can make you drowsy and sleep better, other oils aid the brain to stay awake.
Sniffing oils like rosemary, citrus, peppermint, eucalyptus can do wonders.
You can search for some oils, body wash, shampoos, or flavored teas with these essential oils and try them out.
You can even combine some of these oils together to find your perfect mix.
Make sure you check for allergies though before trying this tip.
4. Deep Breath Exercises
Practicing deep breath rhythms will help you force more oxygen into your brain.
You're looking for deeper, calmer, slower, more regular breaths to achieve this.
Deep breathing exercises are a smart and simple way to get a quick energy boost.
The best thing about it is you can do it anywhere, anytime, even when you only have a minute or two.
Inhale deeply through your nose and take as many breaths as you can. You should feel your ribs expand. After that, exhale fully and slowly.
Doing so for 30 seconds should be enough to feel a difference. Feel free to repeat the exercise for as many times as you want.
5. Get Exposed to Light
Whenever you feel drowsy, try to get some powerful light.
Typically, going outdoors and being exposed to the sun will keep you awake.
Since that isn’t a viable option though, you can still work around it by being in a well-lit area.
6. Get a Quick Exercise
This can be as simple as taking a walk around the parking lot, through hospital wards, or taking the stairs a few times.
Whenever you feel that fatigue is taking over during your night shift, get moving around in whichever way possible.
This will help you stay awake and energetic, as well as boost your mood.
7. Make Use of Scheduled Breaks and Naps
Check your workplace policy first before trying this. If you’re allowed nap breaks, make sure you don’t skip them.
A 10-20-minute nap can have a significant effect on your energy level. Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping.
8. Get Home Safely
Last but not least, make sure you don’t drive home when you’re too tired.
Try carpooling with your colleagues and keep a conversation going with the driver or opt for public transportation whenever possible.
It takes a lot of effort and changes to balance personal life and work when you’re working night shifts.
Being a night shift nurse is something you should be proud of because of the everyday challenges you face.
Remember to prioritize self-care so you can keep helping others.
By doing so and following these tips, night shift will never be the same again!
Are there any other tips for night shift nursing we missed?
Related Article to Advice for Surviving Night Shift Nursing
- 8- vs. 12-Hour Nursing Shifts
- 10 Pros and Cons of 12-Hour Nursing Shift
- 10 Tips for Driving After Night Shift
Please share this article so we can help other nurses struggling with night shift.