Working the night shift as a nurse can be a difficult adjustment. You are constantly fighting against your circadian rhythm – and that’s a tough battle to win. If you find yourself struggling with your new schedule, try a few of these tips to better conquer the night shift.
1. Sleep 7-9 hours
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Although we know it’s easier said than done, here are a few tips for hitting that number:
- Don’t put off going to sleep
- Dedicate 7-9 hours to sleep after each shift
- Eat and drink before bed to limit hunger pains/thirst
- Inform others of when you work to decrease disturbances
- Wear earplugs or turn on a fan to block out noise
2. Use light to your advantage
Your circadian rhythm reacts to light exposure – natural and artificial. Medical News Today suggests using this to your advantage.
“During night shifts, people can try to “trick” their body into an alert state with exposure to bright light and promote sleep by suppressing light exposure after their shift.” -Medical News Today
Trick your body by using bright lights while working and by using blackout curtains while you’re trying to sleep.
3. Eat well
Eating well can help you be more focused during your shift and more relaxed after. Planning frequent light meals and snacks – like vegetables and fruits – can help you avoid drowsiness at work. And staying hydrated throughout your shift can enhance your physical and mental performance.
4. Nap when you can
Before your shift, a quick nap can help you feel more awake. Furthermore, if safe and possible, taking a nap while on your break can help you feel re-energized. However, to avoid the dreaded effects of sleep inertia, don’t nap longer than 45 minutes.
5. Drink caffeine throughout your shift
Drink more caffeine – but in smaller doses. In a study done by PubMed, consuming around a quarter cup of coffee throughout the night reduced fatigue and increased mental performance. Although, stop drinking caffeine around six hours before bedtime so you can fall asleep.
Adjusting to a night schedule will take some time, but these tips can help. Get enough sleep, eat well, be strategic with caffeine, and conquer the night shift.
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