5 Tips for the New Night Shift Nurse

For night owls, the night shift may seem like a dream. For others, it may require a change in lifestyle and an active effort to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and diet.

So how can a nurse put their best foot forward when embarking on a new night shift schedule? We went right to the source for the answer, asking the seasoned nurses on our Facebook page what tips they had for working the night shift. Feel free to add your advice in the comments!

1. Pencil in Your Zzzs

There’s no ignoring the importance of sleep in providing the best care you can to your patients, yourself and your family. It’s important to plan out when you will get your much-needed rest, especially when working nights or preparing for the transition from the day shift. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so find a schedule that works for you.

“I've found that taking a 15 minute ‘power nap’ during the transition to nights really helps. I go in the break room and set the alarm on my phone for 15 minutes. Having that little bit of respite really seems to give me the extra energy I need to get through the rest of the shift.” – Kristin W.

“I've been working nights for 14 years and the biggest thing is try and get a schedule where your three shifts are together. On your first night back take a nap.” – Rainy T.

“Take a nap at least 5 hours before going to work.” – Basil O.

“You have to discipline yourself to only sleep a few hours after working the night shift so you can sleep that night.” – Tara F.

“Gradually change your sleeping habits as you near the change in shift.” Mikayla B.

2. Equip Yourself for More Restful Sleep

Planning on getting enough sleep after your shift isn’t enough. Enhance your sleeping experience with some tips from our nurses:

“Get blinds and blackout curtains. Only allow phone calls from those you can't miss (kids’ schools, doctors, etc.) and the rest put on do not disturb. Make time for yourself to have uninterrupted sleep.” – Rainy. T

“Get a sign for your door that says ‘don't knock, night nurse sleeping!’” – Ashlie R.

“Get blinds that do not let sunshine through.” – Danell S.

“Black out curtains. Melatonin. White noise machine.” – Vonne T.

“Try to get a schedule so you can get enough sleep. Tell people not to call between those hours or shut your ringer off on your phone.” – Melissa B.

3. Nutrition & Hydration are Key

Keeping your diet balanced and healthy is important to avoid hitting a slump at work. Try packing some healthy, easy-to-eat snacks and remember to keep yourself hydrated! Staying hydrated during a long shift will help you feel more alert and energized.

“Hydrate! Try to eat your full meals before work and get by with something light during the shift (salad, oatmeal, etc.) then no caffeine after midnight!” – Shannon J.

“Drink lots of water because then you won't have time to be sleepy.” – Beth M.

“Take care of yourself by taking vitamins, eating healthy, drinking a lot of water, exercise, and get enough rest as it is hard on your physical and mental being.” – Kathy B.

“Eat properly and sleep well during the day!” – Ela H.

4. Establish a Routine

Routine, routine, routine! Sit down and plan when you intend to do errands, chores and exercise. Map out your sleep schedule and even pencil in a little time for yourself to just relax after your shift.

“Working nights is all about having a routine down, when you find it, stick with it! If not, you probably will struggle working nights. It's a different world, that's for sure!” – Ed. S

“Do daily yoga. Go to a quiet place where for 20 uninterrupted minutes you can meditate.” – Norman O.

“Once you get your pattern established, you’ll like it and do fine!” – Vicki S.

“I don't go to bed immediately when I get home. I read a chapter or two then sleep later so I'm immediately refreshed and prepared for my overnight.” – Nita N.

“Establish a routine: Eat something warm when you get home, oatmeal, soup, stay up for a while. You don't go to bed when you get home from working day shift. Work exercise into your routine, pack your own lunch.” – Narda L.

5. Focus on the Positives of the Night Shift

A positive attitude can greatly improve your time working the night shift. Be thankful for the benefits you may receive from your new shift, like extra time with the family:

“Nights has been the best with having kids for me! I sleep while they are in school and I miss nothing.” – Stefanie G.

“My family is the reason I've stayed on nights for fourteen years and will stay on nights. I'm able to drop them off at school, sleep while they're there, pick them up, make dinner, attend every dance class and sports event and then go to work. It's really the best for us.” – Rainy T.

“I found it a lot easier to work nights with kids. You’re also there for most of the holiday when it is a holiday, even during school events, I was able to make it no matter what.” – Karen P.

“Straight nights has been way better. And I get to see my kids and family more!” – Stephanie K.

Do you have any tips you didn’t see above? Let us know in the comments below!

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