Help! need tips for adjusting to night shift

Nurses Career Support


I'm a new grad whom recently -4 weeks-started a position on a med-surg floor on the 11-7am shift. I love the unit routine and the most of the people I work with (I orientated on days, and find nights more friendly to learning and co-workers more supportive of eachother and inexperienced new grads) The problem is; I always feel tired, even when I get 6 or 7 hrs sleep after work. I sleep from about 9:30am to 4pm (when my kids get home from school)I sometimes get in a short nap before leaving for work.I have been grumpy and mean with my family because I always feel sleep deprived, even though I am not, technically. I never slept more than 7 hours a night when working day jobs, and it was fine. I would love to hear from other night nurses who have had this problem and overcame it. I really would like to succeed on this shift, but I don't want to ruin my home life to do it--Help!


5 Posts

Sorry, No advice from me other than give it up. There are some people who can do third shift with no problem. I am one of those who gets sick, and depressed when I do a third shift. I have tried everything, even aluminum foil on my windows to block out the light. I finally decided to stay on second or first shift. I can do a double a whole lot easier than a third shift.

Miss Mollie

16 Posts

I have successfully worked Night shift now for four years, but have recently switched to days and love it. I can not suggest anything in particular, but there are several websites dedicated to shift workers- they have a lot of hints. One really good site is Maybe they can help you out a little, they have some great tips for balancing family life with shift work.


59 Posts

Best of luck to you. My situation sounds much like yours. I'm a new grad and have been working 12 hr nights for a few months now. I enjoy the work flow, the people, and the duties of night shift. Due to sleep deprivation, though, I had to give it up.

My problem is that I'm not a day sleeper. I never got more than 4 hrs, which made my life miserable. I recently began getting multiple colds and stomach aches, which is so unlike me. For my own health, I chose to quit nights and pay for afterschool care.

I read a really large article on sleep deprivation in US News magazine that outlined the multple problems that can arise and like another person mentioned, something about REM sleep is very messed up with day sleepers.

Anyway, I'm sorry I can't offer any tips for you. I hope it works out for you.


Specializes in GI,Rehab, Ortho/Neuro.

I worked nights/12 hr shifts for over a year, worked 7-3 for years before. Everyone is different, but have you tried doing a lite workout before going to work? Get the blood moving in the system... kind of a runner's high. I found it hard to stay awake during those few dead hours when everyone is asleep. I took a handheld game in to play. I don't recommend it though( my supervisor was a little laid back smile.gif)Or could you be getting to much sleep? It may sound weird, but you could be getting to much thus making yourself tired? There is allways the last resort of caffine and chocolate smile.gif... Good Luck


87 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, Rehab, ACU-Telemetry.

I have worked nights (7p-7a)for eight yrs. There is NO WAY to adjust to nights. You always feel tired. At least, the day following your shift. Nights is definately not for everyone. In fact, it has been proven that working nights cuts short 1-4 yrs from your life span. frown.gif Our circadian rhythm is basically getting all screwed up (to put it nicely). But I would work nights anytime over the other shifts. And as "Newnurse" puts it "new grads are treated better and the staff work much better together"...

Hang in there--if your body is tired enough, you will get some sleep. But don't do what I did a few years back--Worked 11p-7a on a Thurs, stayed up all day on Friday, went to work Friday night 11p-7a, and when I was leaving work Saturday am, I flipped my BRAND NEW HONDA CIVIC twice--fell asleep-- lucky to be alive though............ smile.gif



101 Posts

I worked nights for 12yrs both 8hr and 12hr shifts. I personally did what you do sleep 9-4pm but almost always woke around 12noon(to pee)and did not ever feel rested! for some reason sleep 12mn till 6am and your fine but let it be during the day....just doesn't feel the same1 sorry not much help...people I worked with said we didn't get into REM so they would take 1 tab Tyl PM. I did notice my eating affected my mood so I was VERY careful during night shift what I ate and that did make a difference in my moods but I always was tired...Best of luck!

Specializes in Hospice and palliative care.

Nights is very hard to adjust to. Personally I returned to full time nights back in August and have found it helpful to stay away from caffeine. I like iced tea but drink decaf or (more frequently) juice. If it gets to the point where you feel your health and/or family life is seriously affected (negatively), then look into day work. You have a right to look after yourself and take care of yourself,and if that means changing your work situation,then so be it.

Good luck! :-)



1 Post

I have worked night shift for almost my entire career..I have been a nurse for 8 years now. I have always found that short naps help ,more than trying to get a "whole night's" sleep in. Our bodies were not made to work night shift and you have to make accomodations: try satying awake for a while when you first get home, read a little, drink some decaff tea, maybe take a soothing shower... then lay down. The problem with taking things like tylenolPM is the addictive nature, you may soon find you can not sleep without it. I do find myself tired alot, but I would not trade that for the stress of working on day shift for anything. Nights is an animal all it's own and for those who can tolerate not being "fresh" it is a wonderful shift to work. To each his own, if you can not adjust maybe you are just not a night shift person. :0)


nurse for life


Sable's mom

186 Posts

Specializes in NICU, L&D, OB, Home Health, Management.

I've been a nurse for 23+ years now (boy am I old!) and have worked all kinds of jobs and all shifts. I am now working 12 hour nights because I love nights. Part of the attraction is what you have already noted - friendlier staff, also more willing to cooperate and help each other; but the other pluses are less managers around biggrin.gif and doctors are usually only there if you need them.

The downside is the sleep, or lack thereof. Some things that I have learned to do is disable the phone ringer, door bell and any other noise makers; turn on a sound machine - it blocks the daytime noises that keep you from deep sleep; and use an OTC sleep aid only when I'm working back to backs. It also helps if your family is old emough and willing to be supportive, ie no phone calls or fights, etc.

I'm not sure that I've given you any new ideas, but I'd like to give you encouragement that although oour bodies may not be set up for nights, you can make it work and can have a very good time, too.


Jenny P

1,164 Posts

Specializes in CV-ICU.

I've worked nights -an 8-12 mix- for several years now and worked 12 hour nights for about 5 years before that. I had to quit the straight 12 hour shifts; 1 day I felt like I'd hit the wall and just didn't have any energy left at all. I work 8 hour shifts during the week and 12s on my weekends (I only work every 3rd weekend this way- and there are only 2 of us on our unit who do this- they no longer offer this option). Talk to your staffing planner and get your shifts so you work only 3 or 4 in a row. Then sleep in on your days off, and also stay up late on your days off. In other words, don't go flipping your sleep times around when you aren't working. When I've been off and am coming back to work, I sleep in til at least noon. And on my last shift in a row I go to bed at my usual time in the morning and sleep til 3 or 4 PM; then go to bed sometime between 2 and 4 AM. I have 2 ADHD kids (older teens) and a husband. Romance is still possible, but the timing is unique. I found out that I needed to be home with my family in the evening or life just was tough on everyone. I also have room darkening shades and use a humidifier for white sound to block out noises, including the phone. This works for me; it may work for you.


648 Posts

I don't have anything to add really, except the heart felt "been there, done that". I quit nights after wrecking my car three times in about 15 to 18 months. I was constantly a space cadet. Realize that you are, likely, sleep deprived. Do avoid caffeine, since it disrupts your sleep cycle. Darkness is a natural cue to sleep but my body always seemed to know it was really day light. Room darkening AND prioritizing your sleep helps some folks. Don't plan your days in ways that interrupt your sleep. Turn off phones, bell ringers etc. Experiment with food. I think eat, but not too heavily helps. Good luck. Do some reading in the sleep dep lit and you will see yourself there.

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