Night Shift and Health

  1. Hi All,

    Wasn't sure where to put this topic, but since I'm still in my 1st year, thought I'd ask everyone here.

    I switched from 12 hour days to 12 hour nights 4 months ago. I'm not a morning person, so the shift is better for me, staff is great - the actual job isn't a problem. I used to spend weekend days going on outings with my boys - walking, hiking trails, parks, etc.- even in the cold weather.

    Ever since I've been on nights - after I get off my 3rd night in a row, I'm totally burnt out and don't have the energy to take the kids on our usual outings - just too exhausted. Recently dawned on me that with these crazy hours, I haven't really been out in the Sunshine all Winter. When I wake up for work, the sun is going down, when I'm going to bed, it's just coming up (I feel like a vampire) :uhoh21: - so virtually no sun exposure for months and probably no - Vitamin D in my body..

    My circadian rhythm is totally screwed up - I try to switch over to sleeping at night when I have off, so I can spend time with the family during the day, but I can't - so I end up grabbing cat naps during the day when the kids are at school. I'm basically exhausted all the time and have absolutely no energy. The rare times I'm in the Sun, it's like a burst of energy. If it was warm outside, I'd try and grab a nap in a chaise lounge in the backyard during the day, but it's way too cold for that.

    I just found something on this problem called "SAD" - Seasonal Affective Disorder - sounds like I have all the symptoms. So, does anyone know how to deal with this or have any suggestions on how to adjust my body clock to these crazy hours and maintain some sort of health and energy? Thanks, Sue
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    About RNSuzq1

    Joined: Jan '04; Posts: 446; Likes: 49
    Registered Nurse
    Specialty: 7 year(s) of experience in Med/Surg.


  3. by   vamedic4
    It sounds as if your schedule needs a little rearranging. What I mean is, you said after your third night...meaning your third night in a row...THAT could be your problem.

    I have worked nights for 11 years, 7p-7a, and I find that it's easier (for me) to break it up. I work Sun, Tue, Fri every week. That way, I don't HAVE to go home and sleep all freakin' day and I can catch a nap for about 2 hours or so and then get up...and get to bed at a normal time.

    Perhaps you could try altering your schedule a bit?? Just a thought.

    I hope it gets better for you.

    It's not cold here anymore!!!
  4. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    If you can't change your schedule, perhaps a little light therapy would be of value. I KNOW I have issues with SAD, so when we bought our house here, I insisted on a house with large windows and southern exposure to maximize the amount of daylight in the rooms I use most on my days off. We're so far north that in the winter we don't get a lot. The room I'm in now is flooded with light and it's overcast... Today, February 21, we will have 10 hours and 15 minutes between sunrise and sunset. Just imagine what it was like two months ago! You can buy portable full spectrum lights made by Ott-Lite at health supply stores or even craft stores like Michael's for around $100. I wouldn't use the light before going to bed in the morning because that will suppress your melatonin secretion and you'll get a crappy sleep, but you could shine it on yourself when you get up, to kick-start your day. Or use it during your breaks, if you can find a place where your coworkers won't complain! (Mine sleep on their breaks, draped over every available flat surface in our staff room.)
  5. by   RNsRWe
    Definitely time to tweak that schedule! I have a hard time getting enough sleep during the day because of the kids' schedules, so I break up my week like vamedic (except my 3 days on sometimes include weekend days, varies). I go home, get a few hours of sleep, then am up for most of the day. I catch a nap when the kids go to bed, or a bit later when my husband does. Set the clock for say four hours, then am up the rest of the night to stay on schedule (I don't flip back and forth too easily, either). So I get enough sleep by the end of the day (two sets of sleep instead of one), and I am still ready to go to sleep at a decent enough time the next day so I can get enough sleep before going in again that evening.

    I guess I have to play catch up a bit now and then, but it works out and I'm never ill; I get as much time in daylight as I want or need, I suppose.

    You couldn't pay me enough to work 3 12's in a row on nights!
  6. by   youngatheart
    I just switched from nights 7p-7am to days. Wow what a difference, I am really a day person so switching worked for me except for the workload - 4.00 dollars less for going to days and working 10 times harder (not that we were not busy at nights but a different kind of busy) I did not like working three days in a row you get so burnt out. like medic said work one day have a few days off then work two in a row, see how that works, three days in a row is a killer, I felt exhausted all the time, now on days i am back to a regular schedule but work still exhaust me 12 hours shifts (which really turn into 13) are really long and exhausting. take Melatonin pills they work!
  7. by   tencat
    I didn't realize that three twelves in a row was not good for you on nights. I certainly hate it. Our manager sometimes schedules people for four 12's in a row. I haven't had to do that yet, but I know I will have to call off on one of those nights if she does schedule me that way. I have a lot of trouble with 3 in a row. Two seems to be the best. My health isn't great right now. I am having a lot of problems with my digestive system and with sleeping both during the day and at night. I hate it.
  8. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from susannc
    hi all,
    i just found something on this problem called "sad" - seasonal affective disorder - sounds like i have all the symptoms. so, does anyone know how to deal with this or have any suggestions on how to adjust my body clock to these crazy hours and maintain some sort of health and energy? thanks, sue
    my husband has sad. there are certain light boxes you can get to give you the spectra of light you're missing. he does ok with just turning on all of the lights in the house in the winter time. prozac helps, too.
  9. by   kcalohagirl
    I actually don't mind 3 nights in a row. In fact, I prefer it most of the time because I then have 4 days of a day schedule if I need it. I am really fortunate, however, because my husband is also a nurse on the night shift and we don't have kids. We tend to stick to a fairly nocturnal schedule even when we aren't at work.

    I absolutely despise one off, one on, one off, one on, however. That messes me up.
  10. by   DutchgirlRN
    I did nights for 12 years when my children were little. I never worked two nights in a row. It worked out well for me but after 12 years it did catch up with me and I did suffer SAD as well as depression. Serotonin is replenished at night during deep sleep. I never could get into a deep sleep during the day and it did catch up with me. I dealt with SAD by using a special light. That worked well for me. Good Luck!
  11. by   chickenlegs999
    I've worked nights 32yrs!So!There is no answer-it is unnatural and will always mess u up-but I still prefer it.The answer?Sleep whenever ..wherever u can.Got to bed at 10 on night u finish.Tell everyone to b nice to u!!!!!!!!!!
  12. by   RNSuzq1
    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for all the great advice for the night shift. I'll definitely look into the "Ott-Lite", I'm a quilter, they advertise it in all the quilt magazines, supposed to give fantastic natural lighting for sewing, etc. - sounds like it'll help me get the light exposure I need.
  13. by   chiapet
    I'm 49 years old and a new grad as of 6/06. I quit my dream job after three months because I couldn't work the night shift. I know a new job, especially a new nursing job, takes over one's life to some degree at first but working the night shift adversely affected me 24/7. I was tired all the time, digestive system was screwed up, my skin was all messed up. I was sick three times in that three month period and I rarely get sick. It just wasn't worth it to me so now I am looking for a new job. You have to decide what you are willing to give up for a job.

    Good luck to you.
  14. by   Hoozdo
    I have been working 7P - 7A since last November. The only way I can do this shift is NOT to flip flop my hours on my days off. I work 3 in a row and come straight home to bed after work. On off days, I stay up until at least 3 AM. This works for me, but I don't have children at home or have to worry about cooking dinner for my husband.