​How to make the best of nursing night shifts

By Josh Jezard

​How to make the best of nursing night shifts

Every nurse knows that working a nursing night shift can be tough, for many it is just part of the job. While the responsibilities and duties are largely the same as a nurse working the day shift, the night shift throws up its own unique challenges. You have to physically and mentally adjust your entire life to match up with your shift patterns. Working against nature isn’t an easy process in the slightest.

As soon as the night shift is over its back home in the early hours of the morning to try and sleep through the day. Now, this is odd, and your body may initially resist this unfamiliar pattern. Learning to overcome this natural resistance is key to nailing working night shifts. In this two-minute read, we’ll look at the simplest ways you can make the most of your night shift.

Sleeping right

It’s well documented that a lack of sleep causes fatigue and a whole host of other health implications. Not getting enough sleep is ultimately going to catch up with you, both physically and professionally. As a night shift nurse, you need to take steps to optimise your routine and bedroom for a peaceful day’s sleep.

Lighting

Get yourself some decent blackout blinds to block out the pesky morning sunshine. It’s also advisable to get some earplugs and an eye mask if you really want to block out the world.

Routine

Keep to a routine! Stick to the same bedtime and sleep pattern throughout the week. Your body will become more accustomed to a routine and your quality of sleep will be far improved. Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, these aren’t your friends.

Family & Friends

There’s nothing worse than being interrupted mid snooze. That’s it, once you’re up it's nigh on impossible to get back to sleep. Let your friends and family know your working schedule, that'll help them to work around you and stop auntie Sandra from stopping by for an afternoon cuppa.

Eating right

We’re told breakfast is the most important meal of the day and even though breakfast may be at 6 pm for night shift nurses its benefits cannot be understated. Fuelling up on a nutritious meal before shift will work wonders on your energy levels throughout the night. You want to avoid food that’s going to give you an instant rush only to leave you to come crashing down later on in your shift.

Small frequent snacks and meals that are high in protein, complex carbs and low in fat will keep your stamina up and stop fatigue and mood swings that come with sugar crashes. It’s also worth mentioning that keeping hydrated is half the battle too, be sure to drink plenty of water when you are on nursing night shifts.

Exercising right

As 4 am comes around tiredness and fatigue really start to kick in. How can you combat this feeling washing over you? A little bit of exercise should do it. While it has been reported that nurses can walk up to an average of between 4 to 5 miles whilst on shift the night shift can present a different situation. Whilst there is still a considerable amount of walking night shifts tend to be a little quieter whilst patients are sleeping (not to say that the workload is less).

Getting the blood pumping will help stave off tiredness. You may not be able to work up a sweat, simple exercises such as having a walk around, climbing a few flights of stairs or even a few simple stretches and yoga moves should be enough to help you stay alert.

While this may not be a comprehensive list implementing these simple steps should help you make the most of your nursing night shifts.

MedGen is one of the leading nursing agencies in the UK and recruits a range of nurses from Emergency Nurse Practitioners to Pediatric nurses down to Healthcare Assistants. We offer market-leading nursing agency rates, day, night, long day, weekend and bank holiday shifts to suit your working pattern and a generous joining bonus.

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