The night shift: can you survive it? Yes, you can! We’ve put together some of the BEST health tips for night shift nurses so you can power through each shift feeling healthy, happy, and motivated. If you’re still not feeling it, we hope to give you some real advice to get you back on track. Your career is important to you, and you’ve earned it. Pay no attention to the clock! Let’s get to work.
As a nurse, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your career is to focus on self-preservation. That seems simple enough, but for night shift nurses, taking self-care measures are incredibly important. After the workday has ended and most people are cleaning up after their dinner, nurses working the night shift are just getting started.
Caring for patients doesn’t stop because the sun has gone down. Even for patients not in critical condition or that will sleep through the night, they will still need to be monitored. Night shift nurses have the challenge of managing what is considered to be a less busy or stressful work shift.
Shift workers, including nurses, are at an increased risk for various chronic illnesses. These workers also tend to have higher levels of adverse health outcomes and occupational injuries. Furthermore, night shift nurses who work extra long hours may see poorer patient outcomes.
Self-Health Tips for Night Shift Nurses
Whether you are a nurse that is new to the nighttime shift, or you’re a seasoned night shift nurse, here are some tips that benefit your health and well-being. You may even find that you like the lifestyle over time!
1. Understand the Circadian Clock
You’re a nurse, so you probably already know what the circadian clock is. When you have a deeper understanding of the effect your circadian rhythm plays, you can learn some ways to thrive on the night shift. It plays a role in controlling these important factors:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- And other functions.
For example, your body is used to sleeping during the night hours. Night shift nurses may start to crave sleep between the hours of midnight and 6 AM. If you know this, then you know during these hours, you can come up with a way to stay awake and alert.
2. Understand Patient Needs
The night shift is typically a little less busy than other shifts because most residents will be sleeping. Yes, most of your patients will be dreaming during the night shift, but you still need to be aware of some things:
- Once a patient’s family leaves, they may need a little more reassurance at night.
- Patients that are not confused during the day may have some confusion at night.
- They may be scared or feel they are in a strange environment when the lights go out.
- Since this shift is less busy, this may present the opportunity for you to sit down and spend quality time with your patients. If you are in a senior care setting, the residents may especially appreciate this.
3. Control “Food on the Brain”
For night shift nurses, it might be easy to just eat whatever is available from the hospital cafeteria or vending machine every night. For the most part, you should bring your own lunch so that you can control what you eat. When you are in control of your meals, you can choose healthier options.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Think of how often you tell your patients they need to drink water – don’t forget for yourself! The more hydrated your body is the better your body functions. The night shift is less busy so you probably won’t need to worry about the extra bathroom breaks!
4. Adjust to Sleep Patterns
Night shift nurses obviously will have to sleep during the day so they can work at night. If you’re going to be working the night shift often, create a sleep pattern and stick to it – even on the days you don’t work. This will help you make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, and doing the best to help you body adjust to your new sleep cycle.
- Pro Tip: One thing that many nurses said has helped them sleep through the day is blackout drapes. They will keep the room dark by limiting the amount of sunlight.
5. Bond with your Colleagues
If there is anyone else in the world that is going to understand the struggles you have as a night shift nurse in your organization, it is your fellow colleague. If there are veteran night shift nurses, they will probably have all sorts of tips and tricks to remain alert and pass the time.
The camaraderie you build with them will also make it that much easier to go to work each evening. When you bond with your fellow nurses, you can start to really enjoy your job. Interested in a job as a travel nurse? Apply today!
If you already work night shift, we’d love to hear from you! What health tips for night shift nurses do you have? Do you have any tips for staying awake and motivated through the night? Let us know in the comments.