An all time low for a new night shifter

Nurses General Nursing


I am a new to the night shift and not adjusting well. I have been on night shift since February. The other day after a very long shift, followed by a staff meeting, followed by a traffic filled commute home it happened. I woke up with a slice of pizza stuck to my face. I literally fell asleep at the kitchen table. In my pizza. I am thankful I was too tired to warm it up or the outcome may have been bad.

I am really trying to make this shift work. I am trying to stick to the night schedule on my days off. But I feel like all I do is work and try to sleep. And if I ever get a few days off in a row, all I do is sleep. I was off this weekend, I slept 12 hours each day. On work days, I rarely get more than 4-5 hours of sleep between shifts. On days off, I can't do anything with my family. I am tired all the time.

I have never been a coffee drinker, or soda drinker. Now I am drinking coffee on my days off in an attempt to stay awake to interact with my family. Nothing helps.

Please tell me this will get better. I really like my job, but I am not sure how long I can keep this up. And to make matters worse, I was told when hired that whenever a day shift opens they offer it to us night shifters first, but they just hired 2 new grads that are going to be on days. Now a bunch of coworkers are giving their notice and I am feeling hopeless of ever getting off of nights.

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management.

My NM asked me to work nights to cover a night shift nurse that was out "indefinitely". She told me that it would be either 3 months or 6 months max. I was expected to work Monday, Tuesday nights, Thursday day shift ("to keep in the loop, and stay current with the changes of the unit", she said) and every other Friday night. After a year of this bull, I found myself run down, emotional, gaining weight and felt very isolated. I was tired ALL THE TIME, stopped going to social functions because I was so tired, just wanted to sleep....and exercise? What's that?!? I was doing well just getting the basics of housework and grocery shopping done without instantaneously liquefying in the check out line.

I finally went to my doctor and told her that I was sick and tired of being tired. She took one look at my schedule and said, "Well of course you are! You have zero circadian rhythm!" She told me I either had to go to straight days or straight nights so I could function like a normal living creature. She even wrote a very specific letter addressed to my NM stating such. When I brought it to my NM, she said, "Oh, well I guess you can't handle this shift, so I suppose I will have to find someone else to cover. But you'll have to wait until I find someone. No one has shown any interest in working nights, so it might be a while." The next day, I started looking at travel companies and signed on shortly thereafter.

Although I am glad that I experienced working nights, I quickly found that I am not cut out for it. When I first considered working nights, I was like, "Heck YEAH baby! I get to sleep IN! WOO HOO! No more hitting the alarm clock at 0500! Yay for me!" Oh how wrong I was! I TOTALLY get where you are right now.

Email your NM and request 10 minutes of her time. After your meeting, send a follow up email to her briefly stating what you discussed. It might look something like this:

Hi Nancy Nurse Manager,

I just wanted to clarify what we discussed today regarding my coming off nights and going to day shift. I expressed that I was disappointed that our new hires were given day shift spots. When I was hired, my recollection was that the day shift openings would be offered to the night shifters first. You explained that XYZ...yada yada.

Please let me know if I understood everything correctly. I appreciate your taking time to discuss this with me today.



By doing this, you are creating documentation of both your request for a meeting, and what was discussed in the meeting, along with her reply. If you are communicating via hospital email, copy and paste each correspondence into your private email. I know it sounds a little paranoid, but I have had to pull up old emails to present to a manager who swore up and down that she never stated such and such. You are also subconsciously letting your NM know that you aren't a push-over and you have documentation to prove your discussions--you mean business, and you are being professional while showing some moxie.

I apologize for the long drawn out reply. I hope things get better. I have been where you are, and it can seem defeating. Please keep us posted on your progress. Hugs to you!

I love night shift but I don't stay on the "night" shift on my days off.. I sleep late the days I go back to work. Wake around 11 and stay awake til the next morning. I sleep from 9 til 3 every day I work the night before and if I am off that night I still go to bed around 10 or 11 with my husband and wake the next day around 10 and get on with my day.. I guess that's my way of catching up on sleep.

I tried staying up all night on my nights off but it didn't work for me, so I flip back to a regular schedule.. Some people just can't get used to nights.. Try different things and see if something works for you. If you can't adjust, time to be heard and get moved to days :0

I also do this.... I change back and forth with my schedule. On my first night to work, I sleep in and then try to take a 2 hr nap before going in. And then on my days that I go back to work that night, I come home, sleep from about 830-430. Then on my last day I sleep until 3ish and go to bed around 11 and I'm back on day schedule. I do get tired, but I really like night shift. Everyone's different though. I've had no problems from the beginning and I've only been doing it for 3 1/2 months.

hahaha about the pizza comment... anyways, I know how you feel. I was a CNA in the ICU for 4 years part time, and nights wasn't too bad then, once or twice a week an 8 hr shift. When I graduated with my RN license, I did nights full time, a mix of 8 or 12 hr shifts. I WAS MISERABLE! I felt very isolated, because I wasn't on the same schedule as every one else. I slept too much, but felt like I never got enough. I finally went to days after a year and I must say my life is much better now! It's not for everyone, some people love it and it works for them. I would probably leave as well if they didn't even offer you the day shift and just gave it to some new employees, that's some bullsh**.

Specializes in Peds Medical Floor.

I'm the same way, but with day shift. I hate it. I am training at a new job on days and I CAN'T WAIT to go back to nights in a few weeks!!!

Specializes in Hospice / Ambulatory Clinic.
I'd be furious about the new grads being hired for days before shifts were offered to night shift. That's a dealbreaker.

I'm not disagreeing with the above but maybe it was something to do with the availability of preceptors for those new grads.

I often wake up with slices of pizza under my pillow but that's a different issue entirely.

I heart night time stuff. It helps that I have alot of night-owl type friends. Its easier to live like that when you have other people to do stuff with during the odd hours.

Wish I had a license and lived near you so I could pick em up and give you a break.

Night shift can be hard.with a family as well

Specializes in NICU.

I totally hear you! I am not a nurse yet but I currently work nightshift as a concierge. Some people are cut for it, and some arent. Ive been doing it for 10 months now and I'm done. I LOVE my job...but I dread going into work because even after 10 months I fall asleep at my desk. I have to leave my family at home at night after dinner when we should be spending time together...and I'm tired ALL THE TIME. No matter how much I sleep. I realize after I'm done school and am a nurse I may have to work nights as a new grad....but Ill tell you now I'm not cut out for it. Hope you can find something else.

Specializes in family practice.

I used to work nights and recently just went back for a one month stint. What I found was that one never gets used to it (if it's not for you). I felt exactly this way and it's still the same. Nights are meant for only a certain kind of people. For me I did it for 2years, felt the same

I also never stayed on the night schedule. I would sleep less on the day i was off so i could go to bed early that night. I believe my body got its rest that way. Staying on the night schedule placed my body on extra stress. Just talk to your manager about putting you on the day shift when a position opens up. I got on day shift after 3months on night

Email your NM and request 10 minutes of her time. After your meeting, send a follow up email to her briefly stating what you discussed. It might look something like this:

Hi Nancy Nurse Manager,


Excellent advice. I had a similar problem when I wanted to go from 3p-11p to 7p-7a. I was supposedly at the top of the list, then they hired someone new in to work the 7p-7a shift. I was NOT a happy camper!

When I asked about it, she said she didn't think I still wanted it.... I made clear that I did still want it, and when would I be able to start working the shift since obviously we'd had some openings on it as she'd just hired in someone for it. I got it with the next schedule. Putting things in writing is VERY helpful...

I would think that if you haven't adjusted by now, you probably never will. I love working the night shift. I have a husband who is a stay-at-home dad so I never have to worry about my two kids, nor chores. I sleep all day in order to prepare for the night shift. And on my days off, I usually come home from work, sleep until about 2pm then I spend time at home. And I usually go to sleep early around 9pm and wake up refreshed around 8am or 9am and I am able to enjoy my days off.

If anything, try different things. Like sleeping shorter and napping maybe? Or do something to get yourself very tired by 10pm on your nights off so that you'll sleep like a normal person. But, I think one important thing is that if you're not happy at work working nights, then you should try to find a day shift opening. Don't torture yourself by working nights if it's just not going to work. Anyway, good luck! :D

Specializes in tele- 7 yrs, Pyxis- 3 yrs, med/surg 4.

I have worked night shift for most of my 20 years in this profession. Although it is a tough adjustment, I find that I much prefer nights to days. For one thing, on most nights you have down time especially after midnight. Most day shifts never stop, and you are lucky to even go to the bathroom most days. You also typically make more money, and there are few if any administrators lurking about (not that they make much of an appearance anyway). I also find that night shifters have more of a comradarie than with day folks. Not to say I don't get along with my day comrades, but you just don't have time to bond in shared misery.

The down side is you usually have a worse staffing ratio, and you have more busy work. And of course, well it is at night. You do give up some of your social life. And family time. It is really hard to do when you have little ones. I did day shift when my kids were small.

Having said all that, I found that it takes about 3 months to get used to a night schedule. Try mellatonin, it is over the counter and doesn't leave you groggy like benadryl or sleeping pills. Dark curtains help as does a cold room. The thing that helps me the best is foam ear plugs-the kind used by shooters or construction workers. You can find them in any drug store. You also need an understanding family. It is hard to stop the door bell or a knock, but you can put the phone ringer low or off on a land line. Set your cell phone to silent but set to ring on calls from those you want. Lastly do something relaxing before you sleep. I wind down with solitare, or surfing the internet. It is hard to sleep when you are wound up.

Hope that helps:zzzzz

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