9 Tips To Survive The Night Shift

night shift

Here Are Our Best Tips To Survive The Night Shift

The night shift may be when you are needed most. When you’re in healthcare, many a time, you’ll be involved in life-or-death scenarios, so it can make it easy for you to prioritize your job over your mental health. One of the times nurses are most likely to experience depression and let their mental health deteriorate is when they’re designated to the night shift.

For those planning on studying for your undergraduate degree or taking a postgraduate diploma in nursing, you need to understand the reality of the night shift. It’s not glamorous, and any experienced nurse (especially those who have specialised in mental health) will tell you the importance of preparing yourself for the night shift by prioritising your sleep and mental well-being.

So here are some of the best tips to help you survive the night shift.

Before Your Night Shift: Prepare For The Time Change

Preparing yourself and your loved ones for your new schedule is key to surviving the graveyard shift.

Tip 1: Understand the risks

There’s no way to put it softly: working the night shift does come with certain risks, but being aware of them and going into the situation with a sober idea will help give you the power to handle them should they arise.

Due to the disrupted sleep patterns and the pressure of night shifts, you could face a disruption of your natural circadian rhythm and experience fatigue, insomnia, decreased immune function, weight gain, diabetes, and depression.

Tip 2: Adjust your sleep schedule

One of the biggest adjustments you’ll need to make, which will have a physical impact, is training yourself to sleep outside of your usual schedule. It can be challenging at first, but the best way to start is by staying up as late as possible before your night shift or the evening before your shift. Then sleep if you’re able to. Try and take a thirty-minute power nap prior to leaving for your shift. Consistency is always best, so try to keep your schedule on your days off similar to when you’re working to create and enforce consistency.

Tip 3: Notify your family and friends

It’s quite isolating knowing that when you’re working the night shift, most of your loved ones will be on a different schedule from yours. You’ll probably miss out on family meals and hanging out with your friends. So, don’t go into your night shift routine without letting your friends and family know because having them understand the adjustments and commitments you’ve made will allow them to support you through it all.

In The Middle Of The Night Shift: Stay Alert

When you’re in the thick of it all, your main priority during your night shifts is going to be ensuring you stay alert.

Tip 4: Fuel your body and mind

Mental and physical exhaustion is something that most night-shift nurses struggle with. To avoid mistakes on the job, it’s vital to keep yourself in peak condition. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Get chatting with your colleagues – this cognitive process that will keep your mind alert while on the job. This is also the perfect way to touch base with your peers, and together, you can share your different coping mechanisms. It also reaffirms that you are not in this situation alone.
  • Take advantage of the quieter times and do activities to keep your blood pumping and your mind alert. Try stretching or reading a book.
  • Opt for healthy, high-quality meals that are packed with protein and carbohydrates to allow for a slow release of energy and won’t lead to an energy crash. You can drink caffeinated beverages but do so sparingly. Instead, ensure you’re drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Tip 5: When permitted, take your naps

When you’re a nurse, you’re already a hero. So, when you get the chance, you’re allowed to take a short nap to freshen up and keep you in the zone. However, anything more than 30 minutes could cause you to feel groggy.

Tip 6: Consider Alternatives to Driving

Not only is it a pain to drive yourself home after the night shift, but driving while drowsy can lead to a mental impairment similar to drunkenness, according to studies. So, consider organising a lift club, taking a taxi or some other form of transport home. For those who have no other option, keep your mind alert by keeping the AC on or the windows open and keeping the radio on.

After The Night Shift: Relax and Recuperate

What you do after your shift is just as important as what you do before. Here are some vital tips for after your shift is up.

Tip 7: Resist the temptation to stay up with others

When you’ve been away from friends and family all day and night, it can be tempting to stay up to spend some time with them. It’s going to be hard to do, but avoid putting your rest on hold to catch up; rather, go to sleep as soon as possible. All emails, texts, and phone calls can also wait until you’re feeling rested.

Tip 8: Get in the zone for some downtime

Before you shut down and get some well-deserved sleep, allow your body some time to settle down and unwind, whether it’s reading a book or doing some light stretching. Find what makes you feel relaxed.

Tip 9: Prioritize Sleep

Get to bed as soon as you can. It may be difficult at first to adapt to going to sleep while the sun is up and everything else around you is in full swing. However, you can trick your circadian rhythm by wearing sunglasses on the way home, using blackout curtains, and wearing a sleep mask. Anything to keep it dark and peaceful. Most importantly, keep all devices and electronics on silent.

Night Shigt Final Thoughts

When you start the night shift, all of a sudden, your world shifts from normalcy, and you’re thrown into different sleep patterns; it seems like your friends and family are all in a different time zone, and besides your patients and colleagues, no one really seems to understand just how you’re feeling. Keep your head up, fuel your body with healthy food and enough water, and prioritize your sleep.

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