In nursing, flexibility is a must. Some of us need a day-shift option, whether it is an 8 or 12 hour shift, while others might prefer the night shift option for a variety of reasons, especially to new nurses.
For night-shift nurses, consider the following strategies that might promote longevity and survival:
- Sleep during the day. In order to be at our best, we too, need sleep. And, if we are working at night, sleeping during the day is the only other option. Our patients deserve for us to be at our peak performance. When we get home, it often helpful to relax a bit before going directly to bed. For some, doing a chore, reading, or watching the television allows the body time to wind down.
- Bring food to work. Typically the cafeterias are closed during the evening and, like sleep, food is a necessity, so be certain to bring something nutritious from home. In this shift, nurses' diet should be considered.
- Remain in sync. When self-scheduling, keep in tune with key events for friends and family so that a sense of normalcy will remain.
- Schedule accordingly. When making appointments, coordinating household chores, or paying bills, remember the schedule of the rest of the world, and remember that you, too, need rest. So, perhaps allot a certain day when you pay monthly expenses, do chores, run errands, etc.
- Budget finances. The shift differential that is often associated with working at nights is quite enticing. However, budgeting time and money are crucial. Using the differential pay can help to pay debts, but saving for unexpected occurrences is helpful.
- Create a nighttime effect. When preparing for sleep it might also help to create a “nighttime” effect that tricks your body into thinking that it is actually night time. For instance, a sleep mask might be worn, curtains can be closed, and/or earplugs can be used. These sleeping tips for night shift nurses might trick the body into thinking it is actually night time, a time often associated with sleep/rest.
- Remember to exercise. It almost seems counterintuitive to encourage exercise as a sleep enhancer, but research does demonstrate that mild-moderate exercise does promote more restful and relaxing sleep. Regular exercise keeps your body flooded with positive hormones and makes you feel good about life. Regular exercise for nurses will also help you go to sleep naturally and deeply.
- Refrain from sleeping aids. Sleeping pills will leave you feeling drained and stressed. To ensure a good night’s sleep, have a glass of port or wine before you sleep. It will help relax you and facilitate good sleep. Or, you can try a glass of warm milk after a nice hot bath, if you have the time.
These are only several suggestions to help promote effective sleep. With a hectic lifestyle, with the demands of work, family, etc. effective sleep is a challenge. However, it becomes even more of a challenge when our work is done at night, and when the work performed is challenging. Health care requires that its workers, that include us, as nurses, be at our peak performance and adequate sleep promotes quality work.
Hopefully these tips for nurses working on night shift will enable each of us to rest more effectively and, in turn, to practice our profession with greater ease and fluidity.