Most people work their 9-5 jobs, go home, eat dinner, head off to bed, rinse and repeat. At this point, thousands of RN nurses across the country are gearing up for a long night shift ahead of them, usually ranging from 11:00 pm – 7:00 am.
Whether or not you’re a traveling nurse, or you’ve been doing these types of shifts for years, it is no joke that the struggle is real.
Working hours for nurses are far less than ideal in many cases. Some work grueling night shifts plagued by weariness and additional stress. Even during the intensity of the night shifts, others still manage to find the rewarding results of helping people and saving lives.
Nursing is a very demanding job with a rotating schedule that can throw off your sleep cycle and personal life, as well. Not many people understand the brutality a night shift can have on your health, mentally and physically.
With sleeping being your biggest ally in this line of work, learn how to help yourself gain more of it, while also recovering to allow for a much smoother work environment.
Learn To Improve The Amount of Sleep You Get
The most important factor in your recovery is sleep. That much may be obvious, but there are a few tips you should try to ensure you’re getting the most from your rest.
Stick to a routine
The hardest part of developing a sleep schedule is prioritization. Put your sleep first and build your work schedule around that, rather than the reverse.
Sticking to your usual sleep schedule can be difficult and complicated when working all night, but it is a must to try and stick to a routine. It is vital to keep your sleeping time consistent even on days off, says the National Sleep Foundation.
Learning to stick to your sleep schedule can help you be stronger and more focused in your work environment, as well as more functional in your personal life.
Craft an ideal sleeping space
In addition to creating a reliable sleep schedule, you need to craft space at home that’s easy to sleep in. The human body is naturally wired to sleep at night, so you’ll have to trick it a bit if you want to rest well during the day.
Shut your windows and draw the curtains to make the room dark and quiet. Keep the room at an optimal temperature as well. Being too warm or too cold can make sleeping harder than it needs to be.
Consuming large amounts of caffeinated drinks or eating a high sugar diet can have your days consisting of many energy highs and lows. If you can better focus on what you consume, you will be in much better shape on your downtimes or days off.
Keep your caffeine intake low
When most people think of night shifts, one of the most commonly associated topics is coffee. Whether it’s a fresh brew or an energy drink, just about every nurse working the night shift has some kind of caffeine in their system.
While some would caution you against caffeine altogether, that’s not exactly the most practical tip. Caffeine can work wonders, but you have to be smart about how you consume it.
A cup or two of coffee at the beginning of your shift will be more than enough to get you through it in most cases. You just have to make sure you don’t overdo it when you don’t feel the effects fast enough. It usually takes about half an hour for the effects to kick in, and those effects can compound and last for hours.
Put simply, don’t drink too much, and don’t drink any near the end of your shift or you’ll have trouble getting to sleep.
Try consuming more natural-sourced foods and drinks, as well as staying hydrated to keep you focused and more alert during those long night shifts. Those late-night coffee breaks could be doing more harm than good in the long run.
Drink more water throughout
Unlike caffeine, you should drink water regularly throughout your entire night shift. This makes your post-shift recovery exponentially easier the next day.
Keep in mind that this is only true for water and not all fluids. Carbonated drinks have virtually no health benefits, and even tea can have negative effects depending on how much you drink.
The best way to make sure you get enough water is to simply bring your own bottle. Keep it by your station, because you won’t have time to run back to your locker if you need to take a drink.
Not only does this help prevent headaches and weariness after a night shift, but it keeps you refreshed throughout the shift itself, enabling you to focus and get the job done.
Take Breaks When You Can
Sitting or standing in the same position for hours can lead to fatigue quickly. Taking some time to yourself during your nursing night shift can help you stay fresh and focused. Get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour or two, and take some time to eat a healthy snack or drink some water. Taking mini-breaks throughout your night shift will help you stay alert and prevent burnout.
Focus On Your Health
Nurses can often feel ‘off’ mentally and physically with such a chaotic work schedule. The number one thing you have to take care of in your life is yourself.
When your health isn’t balanced, it not only affects your work-life but your personal life, as well. Not to mention the people around you. You can do things like:
- Make sure family and friends understand your rotating schedule and are there for you when you need them
- Finding time to create some positive, self-care habits for you
- Keeping a consistent and regular workout routine
- Making healthy eating choices
- Talking to someone you can trust when you need to
Become the Star of the Night Shift
A normal sleeping routine, limiting caffeine and sugar intake, and attempting to focus on yourself might all assist in improving your sleep patterns, which will benefit both your professional and personal lives.
With these tips for recovering from night shifts, you’ll be better equipped to do the job right during those long stretches through the early morning hours.
Whether you don’t mind the night shift or prefer to work during the day, you can always count on TheraEx Staffing to help find the right place for you to practice your craft. Matching nurses with facilities that let their skills shine and grow is our specialty. Contact us today to learn more.