Here at Medical-Locums Group, we understand and appreciate the importance of keeping healthy, particularly if you’re a nurse, doctor, social worker or other healthcare professional. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, especially when you are required to work night shifts. A vital part of staying healthy is achieving enough sleep at night, and when you work through the night, you can be presented with a challenge. Nevertheless, we have thought of several ways you can prepare yourself for the night shift and then how to recover afterwards. Here are our overnight shift tips for nurses.
Overnight Shift Tips for Nurses
From establishing a better sleeping pattern to eating healthily and minimising your caffeine intake, there are a number of effective ways to successfully survive your night shifts. By implementing our advice, you can help to feel more alert and attentive throughout your shift, and minimise the amount of fatigue-induced mistakes you make. Here are numerous ways to make your night shifts more bearable.
Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep
Sleep deprivation can have drastic effects on your overall health, as well as impeding on your focus and ability to work effectively. When working a night shift, it is just as important to get an adequate amount of sleep beforehand as well as afterwards. Not gaining enough sleep beforehand can cause you to make unexpected mistakes and, consequently, put your patients at risk. However, we have thought of several ways to ensure you receive a good night sleep, regardless or your shifts.
- Avoid working too many night shifts consecutively. This will only cause you to become more deprived of sleep and you’re preventing yourself from being able to recover. If your timetable allows you to, then make sure to schedule days off in between your night shifts.
- Try to avoid long commutes. Lengthy journeys will impact on the time you have to sleep.
- Limit your caffeine intake. It is a good idea to have a caffeinated drink before your shift to promote alertness, but then avoid having another later on in your shift. This may cause you to struggle to fall asleep when you get home.
- When you get home, set your phone to a ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting or ask friends and family to limit their phone calls to you during the hours you have to sleep.
- Avoid using your phone just before you go to sleep; the blue and white light is given off by the screen prevents a sleep-inducing hormone (melatonin) from being released. Consequently, using your phone just before you fall asleep will actually make you more alert than tired.
- Invest in blackout blinds and heavy curtains to block out the sunshine from entering your bedroom while you sleep during the day. Sunlight is a stimulator of the natural Circadian rhythm, so if your eyes are closed, the sunlight entering your room tells the brain that it is daytime. The Circadian rhythms are your body’s internal clock that tells us when you should be awake and when it is time to sleep. The combination of your body knowing it is daytime, but being exhausted is not a healthy thing to be exposed to regularly.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet, made up of three good meals a day. It is a good idea to have dinner before your shift and take healthy and nutritionally beneficial snacks with you. This will help to keep your energy levels up. The food we eat has powerful effects on our mental and physical health.
Eating foods that are good for improving your gut bacteria is said to have positive effects on your brain development, behaviour and moods. Foods that are specifically beneficial for your gut bacteria include berries, nuts, seeds, slow carbs, raw garlic, chickpeas, and grass-fed meats. For more information on the types of foods that are best for improving your gut bacteria, and to understand which foods to avoid, take a read of this article.
To avoid fatigue and headaches, it is vital that you stay hydrated throughout your shift. However, it is a good idea to limit your liquid intake after 4 am so that you don’t spend your sleeping time getting up to go to the toilet.
You should also limit your caffeine intake later on through your shift, as you may struggle to sleep when you get back home if you drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks after 4 am. However, it can be a good idea to drink one caffeine-infused drink before you start your shift to help promote alertness and increase energy levels.
Take Public Transport
If you are able to, then we highly suggest taking public transport rather than driving yourself to and from your shift. Fatigue is one of the biggest killers on the road, so travel by public transport if and when you can. If your only option is to travel by car then there are a few ways that you can combat tiredness on the drive home.
- Open your windows
- Turn up the radio volume
- Stop at a garage for a walk around
For more information about the symptoms of driving fatigue, how it affects your driving and then how to avoid it, take a read of this article.
Invest in Comfort
Making sure you’re dressed in comfortable clothing will help to make your night shift more bearable, especially on the busier shifts. Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes that you can wear all night without your feet hurting will be a decision you won’t regret. Crocs are often worn by nurses due to the comfortable nature of them and the slip-resistant qualities they offer. The croslite material used to make crocs mean the shoes conform to your feet, making them exceptionally comfortable for long wear. For croc alternatives, take a read of this article for the 10 best shoes for nurses, midwives and support workers.
Also, ensuring that you are wearing clothes that won’t annoy you or cause you discomfort is a good idea. If you wear contact lenses in the daytime, it might be worth switching these for your glasses during the night shift. Your eyes are less likely to get tired and sore with glasses wear.
Keep Busy During Your Shift
This might not be something you need to focus on doing but will happen naturally with the demands of your job. However, when it comes to the quieter shifts, it can be easy to become drowsy. You may find that it is at the point of your breaks when the tiredness kicks in. Staying active during your breaks is the best way to keep your energy levels up and prevent fatigue.
You can keep busy during shift breaks by going for walks, climbing a set of stairs or practising yoga. These methods of exercise are guaranteed to keep your body active and your mind energised. You could even use a fitness app for a few minutes during your break. Some of the best apps for demonstrating cardio exercises include 7-Minute Workout, Yoga Wake Up, Aaptiv, Sworkit and the Nike + Training Club.
Monitor Your Health
Working night shifts can often have a detrimental effect on your health, both physically and mentally. Nurses who are regularly working the night shift are often at risk of developing insomnia, diabetes, high blood pressure, daytime sleepiness, menstrual irregularities, weight gain and colds. When your job requires you to be in constant care of others, it can be easy to neglect your own health and wellbeing.
It can be beneficial to invest in a health and fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. These devices will accurately track your sleep, monitor your heart rate and calculate the number of steps you’ve taken or floors you’ve climbed. Using the official Fitbit app, you then also add your calorie intake for that day and analyse your sleep stages. With the exercise features, you can monitor your progress and then set yourself goals for the future.
Alternatively, you could invest in a blood pressure monitor to have at home. These devices are relatively affordable and can be purchased from a number of online and high street shops such as Argos and Amazon. This will notify you as to whether or not your blood pressure is high so that you can alter your diet and lifestyle accordingly.
Several times a year, it may also be worth booking yourself in for a health assessment. Bupa offers this service, which is made up of a set of tests and examinations that will give you an overview of your current health. Their website states that on average 60% of people who’d invested in a health assessment consequently felt better able to deal with stress afterwards. It also states that 55% of those people also improved their sleep following the test. This could be a worthwhile investment to benefitting both your mental and physical health.
Find Ways to Unwind After Your Shift
Once you have finished your shift, it is extremely important to then unwind. Often after stressful shifts where you have witnessed a number of traumatic events, it can impact your ability to sleep. If you think this is a problem you are struggling with, then it is essential that you talk to someone about it. This could be a partner, friend, family member, co-worker or professional counsellor. Make sure to only confide in a good listener that you know will respect your privacy and offer good advice. Even if they can’t provide you with much useful advice, then often having someone just to talk to can help relieve you of the burdens of your job. As we mentioned before, in this industry, it all too common for nurses to neglect their own mental and physical health.
Ensuring to take on board our advice and implement our suggestions into your daily routine can help you to survive the night shifts. Not only will you feel better and more alert throughout your shift, you are more likely to sleep better afterwards and then regain a regular sleeping pattern. If you’re looking for regular nursing locum work or to be apart of a nursing recruitment agency, then get in touch with the Medical-Locums Team today.