My name is Jenna and I am a new grad nurse in a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit. I have been working there since the end of July. I love my job and am extremely happy with where I am at; I couldn't imagine myself doing any thing else. I am pretty comfortable in the environment. I have been working night shift for about a month and a half now. My problem is, however, when I get home and its time to go to sleep, I can't actually relax and get into a deep sleep. Literally every time its time to sleep after I work, I get into that "twilight" zone where I'm not awake but I'm not sleeping, and I "dream" that I'm at work and I'm super busy, babies are crying and need to be fed, or there's a baby that needs something and I can't figure out what it is. I wake up several times and tell myself, "you're at home, go to sleep, there's no babies here!" but as soon as I settle back down I go right back into the dream again. I need help, I literally feel like I'm going crazy and I'm losing lots of sleep over this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all so much!
Jenna, RN BSN
Level 3 NICU - Cleveland OH
Dec 5, '11
This will probably get easier as you get used to working. I freqently have dreams like this before I have to go to work or the night after a difficult shift.
Are you coming home from work and going straight to bed? That might be part of the problem. You might need to give your mind some time to unwind and relax before you go to sleep. Try setting a routine for yourself when you get home from work- that has nothing to do with the hospital. For example, come home, take a nice hot shower while playing some of your favorite music. Then take 20-30 minutes to eat some breakfast, read a book or watch a tv show. Try to focus on the book/show and not let your mind wander back to work. Then, when you feel calm and relaxed, go to sleep. It might also help to play some quiet music while you are sleeping.
I think that in a few months it will get easier to leave work at work and you won't have so many problems with dreams. It's awful to have dreams about work, especially when you have to go in the next day. I've worked back to back shifts and dreamed about work all night. It feels like I've been at work for 24 hours straight! Good luck!
Dec 5, '11
I had that kind of problem when I first started in the ER. What worked for me was Valerian root supplements, 30 minutes prior to bed. They helped me fall asleep, and sleep through the night, but I was able to get up and not feel groggy the next day. Now I don't use them every night anymore, but I still use them once a week or so.
Dec 5, '11
I often have that problem after a particularily frustrating day at work. I use Melatonin to help me sleep when I am wound up. The only side effect I have is that I will have highly unusal dreams but, they are not work related.
Once you have a sleep routine estab,lished, you will find that your sleep will come easier. Good for you for being a NICU nurse!
Dec 5, '11
Heh, I've done that too whenever I've started a new job, and it's usually a job that I actually like.
The dreams always seem to go away after I've been at the job for a while.
Dec 5, '11
I work on a tele floor and I will hear phantom "red alarms". Instinctively my head darts around to look at the monitor that isn't there to see who it is... it drives me NUTS.
In other news, it's really cool you get to work in NICU as a new grad. That's the area I'm kind of hip to.
Dec 5, '11
Gotta decompress after work! I think it happens to all new grads...the noises get to you after a while. Especially if you work an off shift. Make sure you use black out curtains, try melatonin about an hour before you go to sleep...it helps. No TV or computer either....it keeps your brain going. Read, listen to music, hot bath and hot beverage. You can add a benadryl to that too if it was a really crappy night. But you have to give your brain time to go over your day.
We love new grads in our unit!
Dec 5, '11
I think your problem is adjusting to night shift. Human beings are programed to be awake in the daytime, even when they've just worked all night. Everyone seems to develop their own little routine.
My suggestions: No caffeine after 2am. Really. Plenty of water, tho.
Eat healthy foods! If your hospital doesn't offer food @ night, take the time to pack nutritious food to get you thru the night. Be sure you get some protein (string cheese, hard boiled egg, leftovers from dinner) during the shift.
When your shift is done, don't let sunlight hit your eyes--receptors in your retina will try to "re-set" your body clock. Put your shades on before you walk out of the building, and keep them on til you're in the house.
Apples, carrot sticks can help keep you awake on the drive home, and keep you from going to bed hungry. Be very careful driving--being sleepy is almost as bad as alcohol!!
I like Benadryl or Chlortrimeton to help going to sleep. Make your room dark! A white noise, like a fan, can help, too. Since it's winter, turn the fan the other way around if it's too cold.
It will get better as time goes on. It used to help me to pray as I drove home (I had 1/2 hour commute)--a way of saying good-bye to the shift and wishing my babies well.
I wish you all the best in your new journey!!
Dec 5, '11
I had this problem when I was life-guarding for a water park that required frequent saves due to folks not realizing that if they don't know how to swim, even as adults, they shouldn't be going onto slides/rides that end out in deep water! I would have so many nightmares and be sitting up in bed, half-asleep. One time, I even blew my lifeguard whistle and woke the whole house up, including me!
Anyway, if you are slightly aware of what's going on like I was, but still not able to totally snap out of it during the dream, what I did was tell myself to let the adults and kids drown, that it didn't matter if they did. Sounds horrrrible, but I know that I would NEVER think that way had I actually been out there life-guarding, so the dream kids/adults could just kick it.
Good luck to you...
Dec 7, '11
I too had this problem when starting as a new grad in the ER. The first three months-I never stopped working! Good news is that is does get better. I am going on six months now and only dream of working once a week or so. I have found that Melatonin helps me sleep on those days I can't fall asleep in the morning (usually the day before my shifts start). It works but does leave me a little groggy. Hang in there, as your nursing skills and confidence grow, the dreams will subside.
Dec 7, '11
You've already gotten some great advice. Remember also though, that your brain uses the time you are sleeping to process what has happened during the day and to try to get everything organized. Since this is still relatively new to you, your brain is having to do a lot of filing to keep up with the loads of new information that it is having to process. It will get better with time.
When I first started working in LTC, I dreamed about my patients and work all the time. Two incidents in particular stand out. The first dream was about a resident who in reality barely moved himself in a wheelchair anymore. In my dream though, he was plowing into other other residents at lightning speed. In the dream I yelled out his name and kept telling him no as I tried to get over to him. In the morning, my partner wanted to know exactly who Jim* (name changed) was and why I was telling him no so loudly in my sleep. LOL The second dream was one where I saw a resident starting to fall out of bed and I ran across the room to catch him. Instead, I found that I had actually jumped out of bed and was standing in the middle of my bedroom.
Needless to say, it's gotten better. I'm in a new job now and had some dream for a week or two, but lately it's a rare thing for me to dream about work and I sleep a lot better too.
Dec 7, '11
Sounds like a simple case of mild job anxiety...normal response when so much is at stake (even if you love your job and are mostly comfortable in that environment). I worked Level 3 NICU for many years. I would have nightmares about neglecting a baby for an entire 8 or 12 hour shift because I hadn't realized he/she was assigned to my care. Talk about waking in a panic!
About working the night shift......it's just not normal body operating time. Daytime sleeping will NEVER be as restful as normal night time sleep. I've worked 12hour nites for years as does my physician husband. He would concur that day sleep is not optimal. Fortunately, you are young and will likely handle it better than we at this point in our 25 years of practicing. God bless you and those beautiful babies you care for. I really miss NICU.
Dec 10, '11
Nursemares are something nobody talks about at nursing school
but I think we all have them: the one when it's almost the end of your shift and you've been dealing with this and that and realize you haven't passed a single med and where the hell is the cart and why is the med list written in Sanskrit? Or the one where they all code at once, who's got the crash cart and what do you mean it hasn't been checked for six months? Or the one where you're just back for a per diem shift at a job you despised and you're ducking the unit manager because you know if she sees you, fur will fly...
Nursing is stressful. Stressful jobs give us rotten dreams and the nursemare is just one type of those. They're often pretty funny when you wake up and think about them. It's just tough waking up and feeling like you've already worked a full shift.
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