10 Essential Tips For Nurses Working The Night Shift

The night shift. The dreaded night shift.

What is it that makes these shift so hard?

The duties and responsibilities are the same. The protocols and rules are the same. The same patients that are available at night are available during the day. It is the same hospital and location. It is not as stressful as being a flight nurse. They do not move around constantly like travel nurses.

Why does the night shift challenge nurses so much?

Well. It presents some unique issues that come about outside and inside work. A nurse is required to make serious lifestyle adjustments in order to properly work the night shift. Many patients are also asleep during the night shift. Therefore these nurses need to find ways to keep themselves busy.

A typical night shift at a healthcare facility can be from 11 pm to 7 am or 7pm to 7am. Night shift nurses return home after the end of their shift just like they would at night, They go to sleep during the  day and have to adjust to different schedule. One that is different than most of their peers.

If you about to work the night there are some things you need to o know before diving in. We have made a list of the most essential habits and qualities to put into your lifestyle to help you conquer the night shift.

​Here we go.

Set A Schedule And Get Sleep

Working at night throws off your body’s natural sleep schedule. Because you are working, sleeping at night is no longer an option.  Therefore your only option is to sleep during the day. At times it can be hard to get adequate sleep while the sun is still out.  There are some things you can do to make maximize your daytime rest  though.

1). Set a schedule This is if you working the night multiple times a week and trying to get your body used to working at night. Set a bedtime and wake up time and stick to it. Set up a time to eat and do chores. This will help your body get transition into the night shift groove a lot easier.

2). Make your as dark as possible When you are sleeping during the day, make no light can get into your shade. You might have to buy thick shades or curtains or sleep in a room with no windows. Do it if you have to. Light will disturb your sleep and minimize your body’s recovery from working all night.

3). Get comfortable mattress This goes without saying. You basically want to fall asleep as quickly as possible. Having a comfortable surface to sleep will definitely help you do that.

Create Healthy Eating Habits

If you monitor what you eat and put good food in your body then you will stay healthy. It is really that simple. But here are a couple tips to make it easier:

1). Stay away from processed sugar and foods This is doubly true on the night shift. Your body does  not metabolize  sugars at night nearly  as well as it does  during the day. Therefore, it is safer for your body to completely stay away from high sugar or processed  food.

2). Eat whole foods​ – eating fruits,  vegetables, and lean meats is a simple way to stay healthy. Literally do not eat anything else and will not have to worry about health issues.

3). Do Not Eat Too Much Do not eat foods in large quantities.  This is the #1 way to get fat and endanger your health. Eat reasonable quantities of food.  Especially on the night shift since your body will not metabolize the food as quickly.

Create And Stick To An Exercise Regimen

This goes hand and hand with staying healthy and creating schedule. Do your best to workout on your days off from work. According to the research, all you need is a good diet to keep your heart and body in good health.

However, a good exercise routine could help as well. Everyone here knows the benefit of working out so we will not go into that. If you could set aside time even twice a week to workout for twenty to thirty minutes at a time then you will be just fine.

Your works can be as simple as a power walk, a run, short session of yoga, or whatever gets you going. Do something that you like so you do not dread doing the exercise. It will make your like so much easier and healthier.

Monitor Your Caffeine Intake

This is where night shift nurses can run into trouble. Caffeine can probably the most used stimulant in the world.  If abused it can cause some serious side effects such as insomnia, weight loss, accelerated heart beat, jitters, and hypertension.

To avoid this, just take caffeine in limited doses. Use these tips listed  below.

1). Stick to 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day. Each cup of coffee has an average of 80 to 100 mg of caffeine per cup. You should be needing more than that if you healthy and taking steps to make sure you get enough rest rest during the day.

2). Drink only when you  need it. One of the best ways to limit your caffeine intake is to only drink when you feel drowsy. Given that your tolerance to caffeine is not through the roof. Which leads to my next point.

3). Take 36 to 48 hours to detox from caffeine. Your body gains a tolerance to caffeine very quickly. If you consume coffee regularly, it will quickly take more and more caffeine to energize your body.

However, your body can also detox from caffeine quickly. If you go cold turkey from caffeine for 36 to 48 hours then your body will lose its tolerance. This would be something to do on your off days from work to ensure you still get the full benefits of caffeine when you need them.

4). Limit how much sugar you put in each cup. This will help control you sugar intake. This is very important during the night shift. Too much sugar can keep you awake during the daytime. It can also cause potential health risk s since your body cannot metabolize sugar as well during the night time.

Have Long Discussions With Your Co Workers

Usually night shifts will not be as busy as the day shifts. Patients are either sleeping or they are a lot less active. Therefore you might have some downtime or calm moments on shift.

One of the best ways to pass the time if be social with your co workers. Social in the form of talking about things both of you have mutual interest in. These can be traveling, career goals, graduate school, family issues, personal goals, personal relationships, hospital gossip, etc. These are all topics that make for good conversation.

However, there are three topics I would stay from. These are religion, politics, and co worker gossip.  Religion and politics can give you unfair label at work if the majority of co workers have different beliefs than you or if you are largely outspoken about your views.

I encourage to forward and outspoken about your beliefs. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Stay true to yourself. At the time, be respectful and strategic about the way you express yourself. Do not express these things unless it is appropriate to do so. Express your views in a respectful manner and you will be fine.

Also, do not spread rumors or talk trash about co workers. This will come back to you. You will receive a bad reputation for doing. Try to stay out of gossip sessions on the night shift. It will save you a lot of head aches.

Keep An Active Social Life

​The work to life balance is very important. We all need things to take our mind off work. One of the best ways to do that is human interaction. Hanging out with your friends is essential to keeping your sanity at work.

An easy  to keep a social life is plan a social activity with friends outside work once a week. That is really you need. that will keep you from becoming a social recluse but still allow you to stay in the groove for work. You will also have a social life and slowly build a group of close friends.

Stay Active And Alert During Shift

​This is important to for doing your best work on shift. You will need to stay active during your shift. There are several ways to do this. I have listed some below.

1). Keep an active conversation with co workers – Explained above. Having co workers that you can have intelligent or frivolous discussions will help keep you alert and awake. This is because conversation keeps you engaged. Just make sure that you stay on task and do your job. 😉

2). Stand as much as possible – Standing will keep you alert more than sitting down. Your blood will run faster and you can react quicker.

3). Control your  food and caffeine intake – Explained above. Eating too much on shift cause a food coma. The right amounts of caffiene can keep you alert. Do not overconsume though.

Listen To Your Body

Stay in tune with how you feel. If you not feeling well or feel the night shifts are messing with your body too much then talk to your manager about it. It is normal for your body to need a break from night shifts.

Nurses at many hospitals are put on rotational shift programs. Meaning they do 6 to 8 weeks of day shifts followed by 6 to 8 of nights. They will continue to go in that pattern. This is give the workers a break from night shifts and allow you body to reset.

Do not be afraid to let your manager know any physical problems you might be having. go to a doctor if you need to get checked if there is something seriously. Your physical and mental health takes priority here.

Stay Away From Sleeping Pills And Other Unnatural Sleep Aids

​Prescribed and over the counter sleep aids can really mess with your body and mind. Some of these sleep inducing drugs can cause serious side effects sleep waking and vivid nightmares. Users of these drugs have claimed to more depressed within a short manner of time as well.

I would advise you take natural steps to improve your sleep. These steps include: setting a sleep schedule, letting no light getting in ambulance, and eating good quality food. Try this first. Only look into sleep aids after you have seen a doctor and have exhausted all your other options.

Get Facetime With Your Manager or Administrator

Most nurses care about advancing their careers. We want to go above and beyond to show our superiors that we can handle a bigger workload.

However, nurse managers work most of their hours during the day. This will make it hard for night shift nurses to get facetime with their managers and gain rapport with them. There are a couple things you can do minimize the potential effect the night shift might have on your relationship with your boss.

1). Make the most of your day shifts – Use your day shifts to help out your boss a bit. Not too much though. Just with a couple tasks on your downtime or at the end of your shift. This makes your identity more known to your boss and makes you someone he or she can rely on.

People have natural tendencies to help those they find resourceful and hard working. Helping out your boss exhibits both hose traits. This works well for nurses who are only a couple months into the job.

2). Set up time to talk to your boss on your off days – Your managers are busy. Do not demand too much of their time because they have things they need to get done too. Be respectful of their availability and their time.

Once your manager has gotten to know you more, try scheduling time to talk to him or her about your career goals, trouble shooting on the job, work to life balance, or their career path and experiences.  Find a way to bond and create a relationship with your boss without demanding too much of their time.

Obviously, some managers are receptive to this than others. However, give it a try. As stated earlier, most people find joy out helping others. Especially those they find hardworking and helpful.

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The night shift can be rough. However,  if you follow this guide you should be ahead of the curve. If you get rest, stay healthy, listen to your body, and stay away from sleep then you should be fine work the night shift.

Good luck.