Help Wanted- Asking the Night Shifters for Advice

Nurses Nurse Beth


Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I am a4th-semester nursing student due to graduate in December 2018. I have never worked night shifts in any job I've had. Soon I will begin precepting on night shift. How is it best to adjust to night shift and what are some things to avoid or helpful tips I should know? I worry that I may not be as alert on night shift and that this could compromise my nursing care.

Dear Worried,

Congrats on your upcoming graduation!

Just yesterday I met with a group of new grads who are dealing with working night shift. Blackout curtains for day sleepers are really helpful, because they trick you into thinking it's night time.

One nurse said she manages to sleep 8 hours by using blackout curtains and setting her phone to Do Not Disturb.

The first night on, taking a short nap is helpful. By hour second night, you are typically tired enough to sleep when you get off work.

Ironically, sometimes being worried about not being alert increases your adrenalin while on duty and keeps you alert. Once you get home, though, you may experience some mental fogginess.

How easily you adapt to working nights is individual. For some of us, it's hard to sleep during the day even when we're tired. Others, self-described night owls, love sleeping during the day and never needing an alarm clock.

The real benefit to working nights is the pace and the opportunity to learn. There are fewer interruptions- no scheduled tests and surgeries- fewer visitors, and a calmer environment. You have time to read the H&P and research the labs. Night shift differential is a plus as well!

Some people fall in love with night shift for good reason.

Let's hear what the pro night shifters have to say :)

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

I try to cluster my shifts together, which is super helpful with keeping my sleep a little bit consistent. I wake up in the morning before my first night working, and stay up until the next morning when I get off. and no coffee after 2 am.

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

Another helpful item for daysleeping: a white noise machine. We have one for our baby's room and one for our room as well. It's life-changing!

When I worked 7p to 7a (love night shift!), I typically got home, ate breakfast, hung out a little, then went to be around 9:30am. Sleeping until 4:30pm was my goal.

When coming off of nights and trying to flip back to being a daytime human, I would go to bed almost as soon as I got home from work, then I'd be up by 12 or 1pm and get to bed by 11pm, waking at a "normal" time the next morning. When it was time to flip back to being a nighttime person, I'd try to sleep later into the morning that day and then stay up until at least 4am to 5am and try to sleep until at least 3:30pm to work that night. Life is easier if you can just stay on a night schedule all the time, but I couldn't do that with my Army duties and my night shifts!

Specializes in Telemetry, Med-Surg, Peds.

I am new to night shift. And I am so thankful for my preceptor that first week. I struggled those first 3 shifts. The first 2 were the worst. But after that my body got used to it. I figured out my sleeping routine. As mentioned by another I cluster my shifts, 3 in a row. I typically sleep in until 12 or 1p the first night I'm back to work. When I get off I'm up until about 8am. I then crash out until 430p. On my last night I also go to sleep right away and wake up around noon. Then I head to the gym and do all the usual stuff I need to do before crashing out around 10p. I'm back to my regular schedule for the next 3 days. It works for me. :)

Dealing with working on night shift is a topic that has been covered on AN often. A search of the site will turn up several threads where you can read about people's night shift routines.

Specializes in LongTerm Care, ICU, PCU, ER.

Keep your sleeping area on the cool side. People tend to sleep better in a cooler environment. As has been stated before, arrange to work yourshifts in clusters, blackout curtains, white noise machines, limiting caffeine are all helpful.

Specializes in Hospitalist Medicine.

I always schedule my 3 shifts in a row, so I can be relatively "normal" on my 4 days off. We do three 12.5 (more like 13 or 14) hour shifts per week. I'm lucky that we have self-scheduling. My kids are grown and my hubby has time off in the middle of the week, so I volunteer to work every Fri, Sat & Sun. No one wants to work the weekends, so I never get mandated or asked to select a different day when we put in our schedule bids. It also frees up my time to do my school work during the week.

I try to be somewhat normal with my wake/sleep hours during my time off. I wake up when my body is ready to wake up (usually late morning). I sleep when I feel tired (typically after the evening news). Then when I go to work, I'm pretty tired when I get home. I sleep until about 4:30 PM, my shift starts at 7 PM. I come home, shower, eat, look at my phone/email for about an hour or so, and then pass out. It's great having 4 days off in a row to decompress!

I've been on night shift for 3 years now. I actually like night shift. I had to do orientation for a few months on day shift and it's like a completely different world. Night shift is definitely more laid back (no managers around!) and we're a tight-knit group. My only wish is that we could do 3 PM to 3 AM instead of 7 PM to 7 AM shifts. Only the ER gets the 3 PM to 3 AM shift where I work :(

I take melatonin over the counter to make me sleepy when I need to sleep. If you try it... try it out while you're not working yet to see how it effects you.

On my days off... I sleep both a little at night (like a nap) and also I sleep a little during the day (another nap). The two naps equal 8 hours or more total, just broken up. It's just what my body wants to do and I go with it.

Specializes in NICU.

Oh just the memory of it,makes me ill.

Doing nights is something one learns to do.Your body will do strange things to make you think you can conquer the world but dont do it, you need to sleep.

Full on nights is easier than days with rotation[ancient times]

Best advice i got from a fellow night shifter was -"when the pajamies go on ,they stay on until it is time to go to work."

You will need to pay close attention to your diet, eat lite in the morning,wear a sleeping mask, use black out curtains, avoid pills, bring snacks to work and liquids.

Good luck ,we all did it ,you will survive.

Specializes in retired LTC.

Learned this info somewhere - wear dark shades as you leave your work bldg. Put them on BEFORE you get outside and take them off only AFTER you're inside.

Daylight does something to your eyes which triggers the release of some hormone (maybe it was a blocker type?). That hormone affects sleep cycles.

Avoid caffeine WAY LONG before you leave and eating light are good suggestions. I also know of folk who liked to do some exercise machine work, but then there are those who'll tell you to start relaxing.

Personally, I also found that I liked 'gentler/softer' music when I drove home. And make sure any meds you take are not stimulating or diuretic kind.

And the biggest impediment will be making sure that your family & friends know you're working NOCs so to avoid disturbing you. TURN OFF your phone

Everyone will find what works specifically for him/her. You may need some trial & error experimentation.

I just want to say I like someone who wants to work 3p to 3a. I worked 3a to 3p for several years and loved it. I was always happy when I had a partner opposite me.

Turn your phone off when you're sleeping! People know you work nights but they call non-stop anyway. Let the voicemail pick it up. Otherwise, you'll have broken sleep and be more tired during your shift.

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