Help! I’m on nights!!
Tips to survive a Night shift
One of the hardest things for a nurse to cope with is working a stretch of night shifts. Switching to sleeping during the day can be almost impossible and detrimental to your health.
As a rule, by the time a shift is over, you may feel physically exhausted, but your mind may be starting to tell you that it is now time to wake up. This is not helped in any way by the light, typically higher daytime temperatures, and a whole lot of daytime noises all around you.
Do’s and Don’ts
There are; however, a few things you can do to help get as much sleep as possible, even when working nights. Some of these things may work better for you than others. Everyone is different, after all. Here are a few things to try:
- While at work, try to eat only healthy foods, rather than snacking on junk food, especially as you get to the end of your shift.
- Cut out the coffee during working hours. It will keep you awake during the day, too. Drink plenty of water, instead, but don’t drink too much of it late in your shift. It will keep you awake, because you have to keep visiting the bathroom.
- Have a light breakfast before going to bed. No food will have you waking up too early, because you’re hungry. Heavy food will keep you awake because you feel bloated.
- Make sure all phones are turned off or unplugged and tell friends, family, and neighbours to please leave you alone. Be firm with them, and if they don’t get the message, give them a call at 2 o’clock in the morning to discuss some trivia with them. They might get your point then.
- It is also a good idea to get the place as dark as possible. If a sleep mask is too uncomfortable for you, invest in blackout curtains, and attach some thick blankets or black bin bags to the windows. In any case, get it as dark as possible.
- Keep the room pretty cool, too. Your body typically cools to sleep during the night, so you need to convince it to sleep by keeping yourself cool enough during the day. If all else fails, keep a fan going, or at least, set it to come on around lunch-time, when temperatures are at a peak.
- Try wearing earplugs to cut out the noise of cars, barking dogs, or noisy neighbours.
- Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to answer phones, check e-mails before you go to bed, or arrange a lot of activities for the day. You can do the washing or meet a friend, either after you have had your sleep or on your day off.
- Do try to have a walk, after you wake up, to give you some much needed light and some fresh air before going back to work.
Every nurse on the planet seems to have a different way to help her get to sleep during those dreaded nightshift stretches.
How do you manage to survive your night shifts?
Aitor is a Registered Nurse (AHPRA registration NMW0001159845) with over 17 years experience in General Nursing, Emergency Nursing and Corporate Health. He loves Flu, works with Flu, studies Flu, writes about Flu and ironically, he’s had the Flu.
He is the Nurse Consultant at Corporate Care and a proud member of the Australian National Padel Team.