Help! Managing weight and energy during night shift

by RNAngelus RNAngelus Member Nurse

Specializes in Pediatrics.

I am currently doing 8 hour night shifts and I can safely say I DETEST THEM. Worst idea ever occured to man. Now, you may ask why am I doing it when I hate it so much. Well, after spending 1.5 years searching for a job (in a big city, mind you) and this night shift position becomes the only one available to you, you really take what you can get.

Next year summer I will hit my two year mark, the amount of time most places look for as experience required, and I am already sending out applications for either twelve hour days (nights, pushing it, but they are easier than 8 hour nights). Till then, I have got to start learning how to manage my weight and energy levels. I am constantly tired, stressed, borderline depressed, and I'm not eating properly at all: either too little, or too much but not of the good things (waaaaaaaaaay to much bread and stuff like that). Help??? I don't know what to do, and I know my health is suffering.



Has 11 years experience. 667 Posts

I worked night shift before and I did not like it as well. I managed health-wise though.

What is your sleep environment like? I made my sleeping area completely dark and quiet like it would be at night. I turned my phone off, told my loved ones not to bother me (I don't have kids, clearly lol) and got earphones when daytime background noise was just too much.

How do you get your food? Prep healthy food so that you don't have to do a thing during your shift or after except unwrap and heat. I usually rolled my eyes at this piece of advice. I'd say DUH THAT'S EASY. It really isn't for most people. It takes planning and picking food you'll WANT to eat after it's been in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a week.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 16 years experience. 226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Working five 8-hour nights per week is very hard. I've been there and done that.

To keep my weight under control while working 8-hour night shifts, I would go to the health club immediately after my shift ended for about 45 minutes to 1 hour of cardio exercise. The exercise prevented weight gain and irrational eating.

However, I always felt tired, groggy, and mentally foggy while working 8-hour night shifts. I switched to 8-hour days, but it did not help since I am truly not a day person. I do not like waking up early in the morning, and I am an introvert who does not enjoy dealing with the floods of coworkers, visitors, vendors, physicians, PAs, FNPs, dietary people, housekeeping, and family members who are there during daylight hours. Day shift provided too much interaction that I wished to avoid.

I now work three 12-hour night shifts. This arrangement is much better for me because I have more days off per week and can avoid many of the social workplace interactions that tend to occur during the day.

Morainey, BSN, RN

Specializes in Orthopedic, LTC, STR, Med-Surg, Tele. 831 Posts

I just started nights (7a-7p) a couple of months ago, and here's my experience so far:

Eat a "breakfast" dinner before work. This way if you get to work at 7p and it's CRAZY, you have energy for those first couple of hours!

Pack a lunch/dinner. Eat it at a regular-ish time. I try to eat "lunch" at 1AM or so. This way I don't snack if I know I'm going to have a full-sized meal.

No grazing in the nourishment station!!! I was eating SO MUCH bread, graham crackers w/ peanut butter, saltines w/ chicken broth, buttered toast, PB&J, and applesauce it wasn't even funny.

Get a Nalgene bottle or something and alternate every caffeinated drink with a thing of water. Less coffee jitters, and you stay super hydrated :)



Specializes in Pediatrics. 16 Posts

Thank you guys for your advice! It is greatly appreciated.

My problem is that working 8 hour nights leaves me with no energy, which makes me eat whatever is easy to grab (which 95% of the time isn't healthy stuff) which in turn leaves me with less energy and it's a nasty, vicious cycle.

Commuter - You know, I really cannot decide if I'm a day or night person. I like working nights because like you said, I hate dealing with all the doctors, parents (I'm in Peds), staff, etc, but on the flip side, I hate working nights because at least in my hospital, *nothing* happens at night. I actually have only done days while I was in training, so I can't really say much about it. I do know I utterly hate 8 hour shifts though. My hospital keeps saying that it's more cost effective to have 8 hour shifts, which makes. no. sense. So I don't know... I'm stuck with those until I find an opportunity elsewhere. I used to have a gym membership and did go a few times after work, but like you, I felt way to groggy and unfocused right after work so I dropped the membership. I'm trying to watch what I eat more now, so wish me luck!

Marathoner - Oh goodness, I have that problem too! Since I work in Peds we try to keep Jello, sandwiches and crackers and things to feed the kids (and admissions) if they are ever hungry and I find myself picking at that more often than whatever food I may take. It's something I need to teach myself to stop.

Thanks again for the advise! It is vey appreciated.



106 Posts

Try Juicing. Since I started juicing 3 weeks ago, I lost 13 lbs. Im pretty petite, but fat in the wrong places, but besides the weight loss, I have more energy at work (night shift), I sleep better in addition to my fellow nurses advicing on black curtains, and melatonin, and I do chores that I have always put off. I mean, I was off last night, I woke up at 700 am to go and do laundry. Like, where does that stem from? lol. You feel different, you'll look different, and things will be different for you.

Susbstitute juicing for 2 meals a day, take vitamins, and drink lots of water.

Do whatever you have to do to take care of your self first, once you get that under control, everything else will be just fine. That's how I see things. Once I started making healthy choices for me, things are more clear.