Our Experts | Melisa Marion

If you are just taking a job as a night shift nurse, you will have a lot of adjusting to do. From changing your sleep schedule to how you eat and even exercise, these tips will help you get the most out of fighting Night Shift Fatigue.

Sleep

Get on a daytime sleep schedule prior to starting your shift at night. You should give yourself at least a week to make this change. Reduce light pollution with blackout curtains or shades, and sleep more peacefully with an eye mask and earplugs.

Disconnect from electronics to let your mind rest, and be sure to keep the same bedtime even on your days off.

Diet and exercise         

Hydrate at all times – water helps the body stay awake when you cannot. Avoid caffeine, refined sugar products, and energy products because they raise your body temperature and blood pressure when you need to stay regulated.  

You are also more likely to gain weight due to nutritional choices.  Refined sugars and fatty foods are less likely to be burned off when you are unable to work them off.  

Eat before you start your shift at the correct times and snack on fruits, vegetables, and high-protein-low-carb-snacks throughout the night. High fatty foods will drain your body faster and you will fight to stay awake.

Walk the unit when you feel you are starting to fall asleep, and stay active during your break. Four in the morning is the worst time for a night shift nurse. Avoid any tedious or monotonous tasks during that time, and instead keep busy by cleaning equipment.

Find a time that works for you to hit the gym.  It keeps you active and healthy.  It also fights the biological behavior a body does in an irregular schedule from night to day.

The Circadian Clock

The circadian clock, or circadian oscillator, makes it possible for organisms to coordinate their biology and behavior with daily environmental changes in the day-night cycle. This means we have an internal inclination to follow a 24-hour cycle. It plays a role in body temperature, hormones, heart rate and how we function.

Maintaining the Circadian Clock will help you adjust to a night work shift. The National Institutes of General Medical Sciences study the Circadian Clock and have come up with a Circadian Rhythms Fact. See it – see it here.

Monitor your health

Monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and sleep cycles. Night shift healthcare providers are more likely to develop Insomnia, menstrual irregularities, high blood pressure, diabetes, colds and weight gain. Make sure to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor.

Maintaining a healthy home life

Try to get as much done on your days off, so you can rest after your shift on work days. Small children do not understand the night shift schedule. Make sure you explain why you need to sleep during the day and can’t be home with them at night.

Maintain good communication with your partner. Get in as much family time as you can on you days off.  They may be few and far between, but this is a good time to have dinner with everyone at the table and find out what’s happening after a good sleep.

Don’t be afraid to delegate chores around the house. Sometimes the night shift can be unbearable and just tiring, so let your family help you with the tasks at home.

Get home safe

The first timer night shift will find it a task to get in the car and get home – be safe! If you feel you just can’t make it home, call someone to get you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a ride, carpool with a nearby coworker, or even take public transportation home.

Twenty percent of accidents happen due to fatigue or sleep-deprived drivers who are not using alcohol or drugs while driving. Fatigue can kick in FAST and you hit a relaxation period when you are driving. Pull over if you feel you just can’t make it. Take some time to get yourself together or make a call.  Never try to make it home if you’re too tired.

Use these tips to nail your night shift and let us know how it goes!