I recently switched to the night shift and it has been working great for my family situation. I know a lot of mothers and fathers who are choosing to working night shift because it gives them more time with their children. If you are considering going to nights, but wonder if it’s possible, let this post put you at ease. I will share my tips and tricks on how to survive and thrive on the night shift.
Personally, I am a Registered Nurse who works 12 hour shifts. A full time position only requires you to work 3 days, so if you are switching to nights on a 12 hr shift – it will be very manageable. I would work 2 days in a row maximum. Some people like to work their 3 in a row, but I think this is too taxing mentally and physically. The recovery time is not worth it. But see what works for you.
Before Your Shift
In preparation for the shift, I highly suggest you take a nap during the day. If your kids are in school, take a nap before you have to pick them up. If they are little, take a nap with them! You want to have some hours of rest before you go to work. I usually have a cup of coffee on my way into work at 7pm and another cup around 1am. To maintain a sleep balance, drink all your coffee in the first half of your shift – then water! Stay away from the energy drinks! The crash on the other side of the high will make your ride home more dangerous.
During Your Shift
While on shift, you need to stay awake. There will be a slower pace on the night shift. If you have downtime, use it! Read that book, research a topic, write that paper. Don’t just scroll through the mind numbing feeds of social media. Use your brain! If you need a pick me up in the middle of the night, get moving. Take the stairs up and down and up and down. This will keep you warm and awake. I will also go to the break room do 25 squats. Do anything that will keep you moving because it will keep you awake.
What to Eat & Drink
Your metabolism will slow when you stay up all night. It’s just the science of the body. So don’t pig out overnight. Stay no to the sweets left in the break room. Pack veggies, fruits and nuts to eat throughout the night. If I work days in a row, I eat a little breakfast when I get home, a snack when I wake up and a big meal right before I leave for work. That satisfies my caloric need without overdoing it.
This is the coffee I drink for work: Eight O’Clock, Infusion Alert HI-CAFFINE. An arabica bean blend with guarana. It has a medium flavor, not too strong tasting. But, wow, it keep you awake, alert and oriented x 4! (nursing joke). I stopped drinking cuban expresso (colada) after discovering this stuff.
The Drive Home
When you get off you will be tired. More tired than when you get off a day shift (especially at the beginning). As you drive home try these 3 tips for staying away.
- Play music you love really loud and sing along
- Listen to a comedian, if you are laughing you are more alert
- Drink water throughout your drive
- If you feel like you are sleepy, try lifting your left foot off the floor boards and balancing it in the air. My dad taught me this trick and it helps!
- If you feel like you are falling asleep, pull over. Take a power nap or call an Uber. Know your limits and listen to your body. You are better off safe than sorry.
When You Get Home
When you get home you may have to take kids to school or wait for a sitter. Do not drink coffee at this time or get on your phone. If you need to spend time on your phone try using those “no blue light” glasses to keep from the blue light disrupting your sleep. I personally try to stay off my phone completely. I have a small breakfast, take my daughter to school and the sitter comes at 9am to watch my son. After I shower, I draw all the curtains, put on an eye mask, ear plugs, and breathe. I do an old breathing exercise to help me fall asleep quickly. It’s called the 4-7-8 trick and it goes like this.
- Exhale completely through your mouth
- Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while you mentally count to 4
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale completely through your mouth while you mentally count to 8
- Inhale and repeat 3 more times.
It works every time. Now sleep for as long as you can. I usually sleep until I need to pick up daisy from school at 1pm. If I am working that night I will “take it easy” and stay home. But if I am off that night I will resume my day as normal and brew a pot of coffee after I pick up my daughter. This is a recovery day. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t get a chance to clean the house or fold laundry. Rest is important. On recovery day I will stay awake until my normal bedtime around 10:30pm that night.
This schedule works well for me. I send one to school and one stays home. If you have younger kids, babies or toddlers, you need a caretaker. You cannot just “stay awake” for days at a time. I thought I could do it on my own, and just stay up, but that was a horrible idea. I gained weight, lost my patience completely and it was ruining the quality of my life and the lives of my family. If you have family, ask for help. I hired a wonderful young woman off care.com. She also doubles as our date night babysitter!
It is worth mentioning that sleep health is very important to maintain optimum health. Treat your new daytime bedtime as something sacred. Use whatever tools necessary to get effective sleep. Below are some suggestions to help you out.
You will notice within the first few weeks if nightshift is right for you and your family. I enjoy it because I see my kids more. Everyone needs help when they are transitioning to a night shifter. Be sure to utilize your resources. Instacart is a grocery shopping app that shops for you and delivers your groceries, Postmates is another app that will shop any store or restaurant and deliver it to your door.
Good Luck and I hope this post helped you. Let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget to check out my other articles that will be helpful to you! How to Pass the NCLEX eBook! The Complete Guide to Nursing Resource eBook and The Most Effective Nursing Report Sheet to organize patient information and your shift!. I have tons of Nursing related content – so go take a look around!