Surviving Your First Night Shift

You’ve met them. Those hospital night workers that seem to thrive on the upside-down, cheerfully working into the late-night hours while saving lives and providing care.

If you’re transitioning into the night shift from a daytime schedule, we know exactly how hard it is to become accustomed to the late hour. Nursing Times points out that “Sudden changes to your sleep patterns can be tough on your body and mind.” While that’s true you have the benefit of all the nurses that have come before you to show you the ropes.

Here are our best tips for moving to the nursing night shift.

Pro Tips for the Nursing Night Shift

Staying awake is going to be a challenge for the first few weeks as your body acclimates to this change. The trick is, if you’re not an insomniac, learn how to take mini-power naps. Try a 30-minute nap just before your shift. Then, if you start to get logy, try using your breaks for 10-minute power naps. Don’t sleep more than 15 minutes or you may feel worse.

Here are some other tips that you may find helpful:

  • Don’t pig out.
    Skip the big lunch, which makes everyone long for a siesta. Instead, pack healthy bite-size snacks to nibble on throughout the night, such as mini-carrots, cheese sticks, yogurt cups, beef jerky and crackers. Drink lots of water, too, it will help keep you full, hydrated and more alert.
  • Avoid being sedentary.
    Most nurses are naturally running around during their shift, but if you must sit down to document a patient file, you might be in trouble. Try stretching exercises before sitting down, or just stand up at the nursing station to write things down.
  • Yak it up.
    Chat with your more seasoned co-workers about the challenges of transitioning to the “graveyard shift.” Just the action of chatting it up with your peers will help refresh your mind and body a little.
  • Wear a wearable.
    Consider wearing a Fitbit or Apple Watch to track your steps and stay motivated. In fact, the Apple Watch has great reminders to breathe, which releases more oxygen into your brain, making you a little more alert.
  • Avoid too much caffeine.
    While this may seem counterintuitive, try not to over-caffeinate throughout your shift. If you time caffeine consumption wrong, you may be too wound up when you go home to get the shut-eye needed to get up and do it all over again the next day. This, of course, leads us to our next, and possibly most obvious tip.
  • Get more sleep.
    The body’s circadian rhythms will have to readjust to your new schedule, but if you’re not getting a full eight hours during sleep time, you’re going to struggle. Invest in a good pair of blackout curtains for your bedroom. Make sure the room is cool, which is better for relaxing. Make sure all your digital devices are turned off and your family understands your new schedule.

No matter the shift, MAS Medical Staffing is standing by to help you find what works best. Contact us to explore your options.

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