Hospital patients need to be taken care of 24/7 and therefore night shifts nursing is as needed and important as the day time ones. It can be complex and tough to work on a night shift while you know that it is your sweet dreams time, so you need to know your purpose of doing it and stay motivated and awake as much as you can.
Night shifts could rarely be great, so we would suggest some tips on how to make them more tolerable.
How to adjust the Circadian Clock and have a good day sleep?
Getting enough sleep is vital for your overall well-being and for staying awake during your night shift. Sleeping while everybody else is awake and doing their usual daily activities could be a tough adjustment though.
During the night your body is programmed to believe it should be asleep. This is because of the natural human’s perception of the 24-hour cycle, also called a Circadian Clock, where the light during the day is an indicator of activeness while night times are for relaxation and sleep. It can be tough to reprogram your brain and body, however there are few tips which could ease the process and help the nurses to get a proper day sleep.
A nurse can try to trick the brain and make the life of a night time nurse better. Force it to believe it is a night time during the day and the opposite. During the day nurses can try to make their rooms at home darker by getting thicker and darker colour blinds. It gives you the illusion that it is time to sleep and gives your body some semblance of normality.
Caffeinated drinks are quick but not always the best solution to keep yourself awake. Especially if you decide to drink it at the end of your shift. It will probably give you an immediate boost, but let’s not forget that usually coffee kicks in later and it could affect your sleep once you get home. Try drinking your coffee at the beginning of your shift and after that rely on other methods and activities as we will discuss below.
Staying awake and productive during your night shifts
It is needless to say that you need a good amount of sleep in order to feel in shape for working on your night shift. So make sure that whatever you plan to do during the day you leave at least 4 hours of full body rest and in the best case take a deep sleep. It is undoubtedly hard to manage your social life in accordance with your night shifts and day sleep but it is worth it to try and divide your day properly. Some nurses find it helpful to always make a fixed plan for the day and leave enough time to sleep, and still cook, meet their friends etc.
Another really important factor is the quality of food you eat. A better way of coping with the night shift nursing is by eating healthy food for energy income, rather than relying on energy drinks. Even though you might consider energy drinks as a source of instant energy, they often have side effects such as mood swings. And let us not forget about the after effect, when your whole energy crashes down later on. Instead you can try having healthy snacks during your night shift such as nuts and bananas, which are known for their slow release of energy – you won’t have to eat often or large portions to have energy.
Have you tried bonding with a fellow nurse while on duty? Discussing the weather, a TV series you both watch or even complain about your common pain of working night time, you can always make your night shift more tolerable while chatting with a colleague. Who knows, it might even lead to a good friendship someday.
Concentration after work – driving home safely
When your night shift is finally over you might feel even more drained and exhausted. Make sure you get home safely and be extra careful if you are driving! Playing louder music in the car and opening your car windows half-open for fresh air are two good solutions if you are driving alone. This way the cold air will keep your body awake and the loud music will help your brain to not lose focus and concentration.
If you have a colleague from your shift who is travelling in the same direction you can try sharing the transport. In this way even if you are driving you will have a company with whom you can chat and keep your brain active and awake.
In case you are extremely tired, you should definitely consider having a short nap before going on the road. If possible, another alternative is to take public transport. You should not risk your and other drivers safety and drive home while feeling asleep.
Night shift can be like an energy vampire for the nurses but there are certain ways to make it more tolerable. The above mentioned tips are just some of the coping mechanisms which might help during your next night shift at the hospital. We would recommend that you try and see which particular ones work for you as everyone has their own individual ways.
Share your ways of coping with the night nursing shifts? Comment below!!
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