Staying Healthy on the Night Shift

Night shift is an important, and inevitable, part of the healthcare system. Though activity slows, nursing care continues. Night shift has its own set of challenges. Whether new to the night shift scene, or a veteran, check out these tips on staying healthy during those late nights.

  1. Eat Healthy. When tired, the body craves sugar and carbohydrates. If you can, pack a few healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts and protein. If possible, eat before work. It’s easy to grab food from the cafeteria or vending machine, but eating smaller healthier snacks more often throughout the night will help you stay alert and functioning.
  2. Monitor Caffeine Levels. Another easy to grab item is caffeine. Though coffee, tea, and energy drinks can give a needed boost, too much caffeine is bad as well. Try to limit intake to about two cups of coffee. Be sure to cut off the caffeine about 4 hours from the end of the shift. This will prepare the body for sleep once home.
  3. Sleep Soundly During the Day. Buy blackout curtains, eye masks and earplugs. These will help mimic the feelings of nighttime while catching up on that much-needed sleep during the day. Turn the cellphone off. Cell phones offer a variety of distractions that can keep you awake, or wake you in the middle of your sleep cycle.
  4. Schedule Exercise. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to schedule time for a routine workout whether before your shift or after. Exercise can also be used to fight late night fatigue. Try staying active during breaks to reboot energy levels. This could mean taking a walk to the cafeteria or climbing a set of stairs. Keep in mind, nurses working the night shift tend to experience the most fatigue around 4 am.
  5. Communicate with Family and Friends. Many night shift nurses work opposite schedules from family and friends. This can make maintaining relationships difficult. Maintaining social ties is important to mental health. Keep communication open so that planning events with family and friends can go smoothly. Hanging a whiteboard in the house for family members to write notes on is a great way to stay connected. Be sure to communicate the importance of sleep to family members to guarantee enough energy for these events.
  6. Relax. Whether its ten minutes or an hour a day, relaxation can tremendously improve mental health. It could be quiet time, reading, meditation or listening to music. Whatever it is, try to find time for it throughout the day. Oftentimes nurses put themselves last, exhausting themselves both mentally and physically. Be sure to make time to decompress. 

These are a few of the tips for a healthy night shift. Contact Dedicated Nursing Associates for information on our available shifts, or click this link: At DNA, you get to choose: where you want to work, when you want to work, how often you would like to work!