24-hour healthcare means working a night shift at some point in your career is inevitable. Whether you’re about to work your first ever night shift or you’re a seasoned pro, we have tips that will help you get through the night!
1. Master the art of sleeping during the day
Trying to sleep during the day can be difficult, especially when the sun is beaming and you can hear the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s important to disconnect with things that may disrupt your sleep. Put your phone on silent and make sure your curtains darken your room. Eye masks are great if your curtains don’t block out much light. Ear plugs are also good if you live on a main road or busy street.
If the night shift is pretty normal for you, then you’ll know how important it is to get into a routine of keeping the same bedtime and waking up at a similar time. This will help your body to become used to sleeping during the day.
2. Eat food that will give you energy
Food is very important and a key player in how you’ll feel during your night shift. Larger and heavier meals may make you feel more tired and sleepy.
Avoid crash and burn foods, such as cakes and cookies (sad, we know) as these have high refined sugars and although they may give you an instant energy rush, you’ll probably start to feel lethargic a short while after.
Try to stick to small meals or snacks because let’s face it, you probably won’t get a luxury one hour lunch break to eat a three course meal! Pick foods that are high in protein or complex carbohydrates as energy is released slowly and will keep you fuller for longer, especially when you’re on your feet all night. Protein shakes are also good, as well as high protein energy bars that most athletes opt for.
3. Avoid caffeine before the end of your shift
Although coffee will be your best friend throughout the night shift, it’s important to have a cut off period otherwise you won’t be able to sleep when you get home.
Try to stop drinking coffee, or any caffeinated drinks, 1-2 hours before you’re due to finish your shift. Replace with water, fruit juice or, if you can’t get enough of the taste, then opt for decaf!
4. Do not sit down, we repeat, do not sit down
There’s always that dreaded point in the night shift when you really want to sit down but don’t be tempted. The moment you do, you’re in dangerous territory.
If you feel yourself becoming lethargic, walk around the ward, grab a coffee or ask to step outside for some fresh air. The most important thing is to stay active and alert. The first few night shifts might feel this way but once your body adjusts, you’ll feel so good you’ll convince yourself you were an owl in a previous life.
5. Get home safely
If you’re driving home after a night shift, you’ll probably feel exhausted so make sure you have your windows open and a catchy tune on the radio. If you are feeling too tired to continue driving, make sure you pull over somewhere safe and find an alternative way to getting home.
If you know you’ll be feeling too tired to drive home after a night shift then maybe arrange for someone to drop you off and pick you up, co-share a ride home with another nurse who lives close by, or use public transport.
If you’re about to work your first night shift, good luck and we hope these tips help! If you’re a seasoned pro, let us know if we’ve missed any tips by commenting below.