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Top 11 Tips on Surviving the Night Shift

Published 27 October 15 03:31 PM

Top 11 Tips on Surviving the Night Shift

While night shift and day shift workers share similar tasks and responsibilities, working the graveyard shift requires some significant adjustments. Adapting to a different sleep schedule and workplace atmosphere can lead to increased stress levels and sleep disturbance. 

Stay alert at night and sleep well during the day with these 11 ways to survive the night shift!

1. Stay hydrated – Do yourself a favor and keep hydrated throughout the night. Drinking water will keep you energized and functioning during that long shift. If you struggle with dehydration, keep a water bottle with you at all times, track your water intake with an app or research ways to drink more water.

2. Drink caffeine wisely – Coffee can be your best friend when you’re working the night shift, but you don’t want to overdo it. Plan ahead with your caffeine, and try to drink that cup of joe earlier on. Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages during the second half of your shift, as you may have trouble sleeping when you get home.

3. Eat regularly – And by this, we mean real food, and not the kind you find in vending machines. As tempting as that bag of chips may be, it’s important that you eat healthy during your work shift. Healthier snacks and meals give you the stamina and energy you need to make it through a long night. Choose items that will provide a boost of energy and won’t have you crashing later on. To stay healthy, keep a lunch tote stocked with healthy snacks and regularly eat throughout your shift to satisfy cravings and remain full. 

4. Socialize with your coworkers – Bonding with your coworkers not only helps the shift go by faster; it also improves communication in your department or facility. Making friends during your work shift gives you someone you can rely on when you need assistance or have questions. Disagreements or tension will only make your shift more difficult, so it’s important that you reach out to coworkers and show an interest in them.

5. Exercise when you can – When you’re a hardworking healthcare professional, exercise can seem like an unattainable feat. But it is possible with considerable effort. Working out can fight off fatigue and improve your mood. Find time for exercise during breaks or before work to increase energy levels. You could climb a set of stairs, dance to a song or even take a brisk walk to the cafeteria. Find out whatever works for you and stick to a routine. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, so staying active is never an issue.

6. Make it home safely – It is never a good idea to drive home exhausted. To stay awake while driving, many individuals will blast the AC or turn the radio volume up, but this is not a solution. If you’re feeling tired after a long shift, consider taking public transportation. Another option is carpooling with a coworker and keeping up a steady conversation with the driver so you both stay alert. You may be in a rush to get home, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

7. Sleep well – I know, easier said than done, but sleeping well can mean the difference between a horrible night and a good one. We recommend aiming for about 8 hours of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping during the day, you should create an environment conducive for sleeping. The main goal is to make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible.

You could hang up blackout curtains to keep out any light or power down any distracting devices. Block out any disruptive noises or light with earplugs or an eye mask, and steer clear of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages close to bedtime. These drinks will only disrupt your sleep cycle and leave you feeling tired. Remember to always make sleep a priority, or you’ll regret it later.

8. Balance home life with work life – Creating a healthy balance between home and work responsibilities can be difficult when you work the night shift. You may feel as if you’re constantly out of the loop, or you might have trouble meeting up with friends or staying in touch with family members. When you work odd hours, you have to plan family gatherings and outings in advance. Let your loved ones know your schedule, so they know the best time to reach you and they can better understand your work commitments.

When you struggle on the home front, try out these helpful tips:

  • Even if you can’t see family or friends in person, keep in contact via texts, emails or phone calls whenever possible.
  • Leave notes or write on bulletin boards at home to communicate with your significant other and/or children.
  • Plan a date night at the end of each work week so you have something to look forward to.

9. Eat a healthy meal before your shift – If possible, eat a healthy, well-balanced meal before your work shift. Eating before work will keep you full and satisfied for longer and will curb any cravings. Your facility may have a cafeteria, but if healthy food options are few and far between, you may be better off preparing your own meal.

10. Wear sunglasses – Research has shown that bright morning light can keep you awake. If you want to sleep right after your work shift, wear sunglasses on your way home, even on a cloudy day. Keeping sunglasses on will limit your exposure to sunlight and, hopefully, help you to sleep when you get home.

11. Turn up the lights – We’ve already mentioned that light can keep you awake, which is why it’s a good idea to keep the workplace as bright as possible. Light may be your worst enemy after work, but it’s great for staying awake during work hours. You can turn on the lights in your office or purchase a special light box to promote alertness.

Managing the night shift can be challenging, but never impossible. Whatever you do, don’t despair. Concentrate on sleeping well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and you’re sure to see an improvement in your work performance and well-being!

What strategies and tips have worked for you? We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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3 comments

👍🍴🍅🍋🍉🍑🍒🍓take proper diet%0d%0a

Sneh Verma, Nursing October 29, 2015 3:02 PM
Gurgaon IN

I worked nights exclusively for 30 years. Working the same days was a must. No rotation. So I always volunteered to work every weekend, as long as I has the same two days off in a row.

I also learned to Not go to sleep as soon as I got home. I would wake mid day and not be able to get back to sleep, or sleep too late. I usually went to bed around lunch time.  So, a cool room, black out curtains, white noise generator are a must. Do Not answer the door. If you were working days you wouldn't be there to answer the door, so why do it just because you're home?

Linda Terrell, Lab - MLS, Retired October 29, 2015 2:32 PM
Dunedin FL

I have found that doing all my shifts together works best because then I'm on nights during that time and then I have 8 days off to be back on days and be productive. Doing the 1 on 2 off 2 on 1 off  etc completely wrecks me. My work week starts the night before as I get my body used to nights again by staying up then and then when I'm done with the 6 days, I take a short nap and wake up so I can start the process of sleeping like a normal person.

Adam Eldred, Respiratory - Rcp3, CHSB October 29, 2015 10:49 AM
Yucaipa CA

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