How Healthcare Professionals Survive the Night Shift

how healthcare professionals survive the night shiftAre you one of the many health care professionals that work the night shift?

As a nurse or certified nursing assistant, you will likely be asked to work the night shift at some point in your career.  Although there are noted advantages of working while the rest of us are sleeping, there are many disadvantages that can interfere with your overall health and work performance.

Here are some helpful tips to maintain your health and improve your performance during the night shift:


1.      Set a Sleeping Goal: Set a goal to sleep eight hours every day.  Make your room as dark as possible (Blackout shades, blankets over windows, or sleep masks).  Make your room as quiet as possible (Door shut, ear plugs, fan for “white noise”).  Make sure your family knows not to interrupt you unless there is an EMERGENCY.  Turn your cell phone to silent.


2.      Sunglasses: Wear very dark sunglasses as you leave your place of employment and on the trip home.  Research has shown that once you subject your eyes to the bright morning sunlight, your body says “wake up”.


3.      Give yourself time to unwind:  When you get home, don’t go to sleep immediately. Relax for a while, watch TV or do housework. Your body will tell you when you’re ready to sleep and your sleep will be more relaxed.


4.      Breakfast before bed: Eat a small balanced breakfast before going to bed. Do not go to bed hungry.  A good complex carb with high fiber content will not overwhelm your stomach and allow you to sleep without having that “growling” sensation in your belly. DO NOT eat a heavy meal as it will only lay heavy in your stomach, and make you uncomfortable.


5.      Work out regularly: Plan your day accordingly so you can fit exercise in to your daily routine.   Exercise keeps your body flooded with positive hormones and makes you feel good about life.  Regular exercise will help you go to sleep naturally and deeply.  DO NOT exercise after your shift.  It will only prevent you from getting to sleep.  It’s best to exercise after a full  sleep (6 – 8 hours) when you’re well rested.


6.      Maintain a good healthy diet: When you are tired and hungry you may lose the motivation to eat healthy.   It’s important to plan your meals carefully.  Eat your “big” meal in the evening prior to your shift.  Bring a variety of small, protein-rich snacks to work so you can eat something “healthy” if you get hungry.  Take a good multivitamin and antioxidant to supplement your diet.


7.      Watch your caffeine consumption: Don’t drink more than a cup or two of coffee in 24 hours. Caffeine may help you get past the occasional feeling of lethargy and stimulate you, but in the long term, caffeine is addictive and disrupts your circadian rhythm. That apart, coffee is diuretic and you don’t want to wake up to pass water during your sleep time!


8.     Get some rays: Get out and enjoy the sunshine!  The best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply.  It’s important that people who work nights and sleep during the day get outside periodically.  Sunlight improves mood, energy and sleep quality.