Night shifts are a necessary part of healthcare. In any hospital or inpatient facility, activity slows at night, but nursing care continues around the clock. Frequently new employees will begin and remain on the night shift until a position on the day shift opens. Some facilities require rotating shifts or schedule staff to fill in for night staff vacations.
Adapting to the night shift can be one of the biggest challenges for a CNA. Many of the duties remain the same as during the day shift, yet fatigue can make the tasks seem harder. The human brain tells us to slow down and sleep when it’s dark. It releases hormones that keep our internal “clocks” on schedule so that we’ll be alert during the day. Staying awake all night confuses both the brain and the body.
Tips That Work for Night Shift Nurses
- Maintain your sleep routine
While you occasionally may need to interrupt your sleep for an important activity, your best strategy is to maintain a consistent sleep pattern. Whether you prefer to go directly to bed when you get home or stay awake for a while, follow that schedule.
2. Copy night during the day
Make your bedroom as dark as possible with room-darkening shades or curtains. Wear a sleep mask to keep your eyes from sensing light; when the brain perceives darkness, it produces melatonin, the sleep hormone. Earplugs can help by keeping daytime noises out. Some people also like a white noise machine or phone app, which blocks noise with soft moving air.
- Lower caffeine
Caffeine (coffee, tea, and energy drinks) can give you a boost at the start of your shift and can be tempting to continue throughout the night. But cut it off at least four hours before the end of your shift so you’ll be sleepy when you get home.
- Eat a good “breakfast” before work
Just like your mother told you, you need fuel to get through the day…or in this case, the night. Avoid sugar and refined foods before and during the shift. Bring protein, nuts, fruits, and vegetables for snacks. Small portions every few hours will keep your blood sugar stable. Be sure and stay hydrated, too.
- Lighting is important
To “fool” the brain, you’ll need a source of light during the shift. Most facilities dim the lights at night so patients and residents can sleep. Try and keep lights turned up at the nursing station and break room. However, on your way home you should put on sunglasses to reduce direct daylight, which can stimulate your brain.
- Keep busy all night
Traditionally, the night shift has some responsibilities that support the busier day shift. Folding linens, stocking supplies, cleaning work areas, wiping wheelchairs, and assisting the early-risers are some of the duties. It’s a good idea to bring something to do for slow nights. A book or magazine, Sudoku puzzles, or simple knitting—activities that can quickly be set aside to help a resident—can keep the brain occupied.
- Get to know your co-workers
Time goes more quickly when you’re engaged with others. Help each other out; with fewer resources than during the day, you’ll get creative when a new glitch pops up. You’ll also have a chance to get to know each other; lifelong friendships develop on the night shift.
- Create a community of support
Working nights can be stressful for you, as well as your family and friends. When you’re on the opposite schedule from others, it takes a while for them to realize that because you’re “home” during the day doesn’t mean that you are available. You need sleep. Remind them not to call unless there is an emergency. Specify certain times for communication. Use notes and bulletin boards to post updates. Plan family time and “date nights” for your days off.
9 . See a doctor if nothing works
Do not use alcohol for sleep; it may seem to get you to sleep, but it can actually keep you awake as it metabolizes. Melatonin supplements or over-the-counter sleep aids, available at drug stores and pharmacies, can be useful. However, if you find you need to take something on a regular basis, it’s time to get help. Before using sleeping pills, make an appointment with your primary care provider. He or she can evaluate your overall health, including other possible sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
Every person is different, so finding the right combination of techniques that suit you best may take time. Applying some of the above tips may help you on your way to cope better with working at night and ensuring that you get the right amount of sleep to function properly. In case you have an inquiry, check HERE.