night shift headache

  1. So I work day/night rotation and I've been working night shift (7p-7a) for about the past month. While I'm at work, I seem to keep myself busy enough that I dont even realize I'm tired. While at work, I never have caffeine as I wasnt a coffee drinker prior to working nights. So, I go to sleep around 8am, usually waking up anytime 12-1. Seems like clockwork. No matter what I do or how tired I feel, I can never go back to sleep.

    I can handle the lack of sleep and then compensating on my days off. My issue is that every afternoon when I wake up, I've got these horrible headaches. I've never had anything like them. Its right around the top of my head and the sides near my ears. Its a consistent intense ache, like my head is being squished together. I'm not really sure what it is - maybe migraines? I just dont want to be popping pills every time I have to work nights.

    I use a sleeping mask, have a fan, turn my phone off, etc. All the little tricks and still wake up with these horrible headaches.

    Any insight or suggestions appreciated. Thanks!
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    About birdie22, BSN

    Joined: Jun '10; Posts: 230; Likes: 150


  3. by   systoly
    Please address this with your healthcare provider. A headache journal maybe helpful.
  4. by   Isabelle49
    Are you eating while working at night. If you are not, it could be a problem. Also are you taking in fluids adequately?
  5. by   punkydoodlesRN
    I had the same problem, for about a year. Kept a detailed headache journal. Took meds. Cut out all caffeine, chocolate. Pretty much drank a gallon of water per shift. Nothing other than switching to days only brought any relief. I hope you get it figured out soon!!
    Last edit by rn/writer on Aug 24, '11 : Reason: Removed names of meds.
  6. by   birdie22
    I usually eat some type of dinner before work, then have some crackers with pb or something light at work. And then sometimes I dont eat before I go to sleep if I'm too tired. So I can easily go from 5pm the night before to noon the next day with only having some saltines. I'm probably a bit dehydrated as well. I noticed I'm more thirsty during night shift, but sometimes dont get around to drinking enough water. I never have caffeine - dont like coffee and never drink it normally anyways.

    Maybe its just diet related? I sure hope so. I dont like the feeling of having to be dependent on pills whenever I have to work. Thank you for your comments!
  7. by   gijen
    it could be as simple as your night mask being too tight or pushing on pressure points. i too work nights and wear a mask to keep it dark and if it's not on correctly, I'll wake up with a killer headache. hope you get it figured out!
  8. by   rn/writer
    Please, remember that it is against the AN Terms of Service to give medical advice. Stick with non-medical ideas only.

    OP, I strongly encourage you to see your PCP. The suggestion of keeping a journal/diary is a good one. Maybe you'll see a pattern.

    My husband I have worked nights for years, and we've had to learn how to take care of ourselves.

    It's very easy to become dehydrated. Your eating schedule is also worrisome. You could be waking up because your body is telling you it wants foooood!

    One of the hazards of being a nurse, but especially one who works nights is that you become very good at tuning out your own body signals (while rushing around taking care of everyone else's). Hunger and thirst alarms may be turned way down for you or even turned off entirely. Going 20 hours without eating anything more substantial than crackers is, well, crackers.

    You may not have a lot of time to eat at work, but you can pack things like string cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruit, granola bars, frozen meals. Eat a few bites of something throughout the shift, and have a bowl of oatmeal or a grilled cheese sandwich or even some leftover supper before going to bed.

    When you see your PCP, you can also ask about seasonal allergies. That could be a factor, too.

    Try hydrating and eating and making sure your sleep mask isn't too tight. Talk to your PCP. And keep a journal.

    Taking meds isn't the worst thing in the world if you need them.

    I hope you can find something that works for you.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Aug 25, '11
  9. by   serein
    For me, I know I get extremely bad headaches when I don't drink enough water or eat enough. I've checked with a doctor and he's told me dehydration is one of the most common cause of headache so I would think maybe you're not getting enough fluids or eating enough. Hope it works out for you! rn/writer-great tips on working nights! I'll have to keep those in mind when I start working nights! It'll be my first time so I'm nervous about it.
  10. by   birdie22
    appreciate all the feedback. I will try to make a conscious effort to eat/drink more during my night shift and see if that changes anything. thanks for all the insight!!!