12 hour overnight nurses, please tell me about your sleep schedule.

Nurses Stress 101 Nursing Q/A

Specializes in Cardiology.

I've been working M-F 3-11 for about a year, and I hate it. I feel as if I have no life and am on the brink of depression. I spoke with my manager 2 weeks ago about a night position, and she had none open. Like an answer to a prayer, last Friday one of my co-workers resigned and I was offer 7p to 7A today.

I'm wondering about sleep schedules for those of you working this shift. I have a 9 year old that I homeschool, so if you have kids at home during the day, I'm especially interested in hearing how you juggle sleep and real life. Thanks for the input!

24 Answers

I do 3- 12 hour night shifts a week, tues/wed/thur. I have only been working nights for 3 months, prior to that always day shift, 8 hour shifts. It took a while to figure out a schedule. Tuesdays I try to nap, but I don't make it a priority. I have two little ones, so sometimes I just fight through the exhaustion for them. Wednesday AM when I get home I sleep from about 930 til about 4. And then same thing Thursday AM when I get home. Friday AM when I get home I stay awake, that way I can go to sleep Friday night and sleep normal on my days off!

Hope that helps a bit. It really all depends on what you can handle...if I have a lot going on I just fight through the exhaustion for those 3 days!

Specializes in Med/Surg,Cardiac.

I sleep when I'm tired. Ultimately I usually sleep 8 hours between shifts that are in a row. On my first night off I usually sleep until about midnight and get up for a couple of hours then nap until 9 am so I'm on a day shift schedule. I'll sleep at night and the night when I have to go back to work I'll just nap from noon until 5 and then go to work.

~ No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent -Eleanor Roosevelt ~

Specializes in IMCU/Telemetry.

I've worked nights for many years. I love my 12hr shifts. I have to admit I plan my sleep pattern the same way. I go to bed after work at aprox 9:30 and get up at 4:30. If I'm off the next day I stay up until aprox 7-9pm. I then proceed to pass out. I wake up at about 8am, and my internal clock is reset to days.

I do try to nap before work. Doesn't matter if I don't manage to as its a mental trick to tell my body I'm going to be up all night. Works for me.

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

I have no kids, but I have been working 12 hour night shifts for the past three years from 6:00pm to 6:30am.

Honestly, I do not require much sleep to get through most nights. Sometimes I'll be awake all day, take a nap at 2:00pm, and awaken at 5:00pm. To avoid sleep deprivation I'll try to fall asleep by 9:00am and awaken at 4:30pm.

Specializes in Emergency.

I think the key piece of information here is that you are homeschooling a 9 year old! I know the amount of effort that takes and presume that means you have a 9 year old home in your house where you need to be sleeping all day.

So further info here: do you have a place that your child can go to hang out and do schoolwork on the days after your nightshift?

I think that this could be a real problem if you don't. Many people who work nights will tell you that our adult friends and family have difficulty with the concept that they cannot disturb us on these days. I can't imagine that even the most self-restrained 9 year old is capable of keeping quiet all day or choosing to let mom sleep if s/he has a need.

And you need sleep. When I first went back to work after Mat leave we decided to save money and facilitate more time with baby by not booking a sitter after my last night, after all, it's not like I had to go back to work. After a couple of weeks I started having intrusive, disturbing thoughts during the day that I didn't sleep. I ended up calling my husband crying and asking him to come home because I didn't feel safe. After that we started getting a sitter, I have not had problems since.

Moral of the story: It is possible to have a good sleep schedule, even with rotating shifts but you really need to have a good plan in place for your kids during the day because lack of sleep will make you crazy!!

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

I'd seriously reconsider working nights if you are on the brink of depression. Working nights can be very isolating. I find it incredibly depressing to have to bail on family holidays because I have to go home and sleep before work, or have people tell me they didn't call or text me because they didn't want to wake me up. Also, being on a different schedule from everyone else I know makes me feel ultra alone. I can't even begin to imagine doing it with a child, let alone a home-schooled child... Just my two cents.

Anyway, the night before work I go to bed at around noon and sleep until 6 or so, go to work, come home, take a shower and am usually in bed asleep by 9 and up by 5 to go back to work. I try to sleep at least 6 hours after a night shift and then get up and be a normie.

Specializes in Peds.

All of these posts have great advice...

How many shifts will you be working per week? How many days per week do you homeschool your 9 year old? Will your shifts vary each week, or is it a set schedule? Is your spouse home during the day when you need sleep, or do you have family/sitter/daycare as an option?

I've been working night shift for the past 3 years. I work three 12 hour shifts. I do not have kids yet, but we are planning on getting pregnant and I will hopefully switch to two 12 hour night shifts per week. I definitely plan on staying with night shift... I love working nights, I like the flow of night shift while I'm at work, and the pay increase.

I work with a lot of moms who work nights, and have asked many of them how they do it, because I am planning on having kids myself. As long as you have a way to sleep between shifts, whether your child goes to school or has someone at home to watch them so you can be left alone, you should be fine. Almost every mom that I work with will have at least 1 or 2 days a week that they are on VERY little sleep... usually the day after their last shift that they have to stay awake to watch their kids, or to try and switch to days. I've been told that it's okay to do that some, but definitely not every shift.

Like the other posts have said, you NEED sleep... but night shift is great, you can totally make it work, and one day a week with little sleep is totally do-able as long as it's not all the time so your body can get rested and recharged. I think you will find that working 12 hr shifts will give you more family time... your previous shift of 3 to 11 was five days a week and during the best time of day to spend with family! It's sometimes hard to switch back and forth on days off, but overall compared to your previous schedule, you will certainly see your family more. :)

Good luck and welcome to night shift!

Specializes in Peds.

Oh and as far as my sleep schedule goes... it varies. Usually in between shifts, I'll go to bed at 9am and wake up at 4:30pm. Before my first shift, I'll take a 3 to 4 hour nap to prepare to stay up all night.

After my last shift, if I plan on switching to days I'll usually sleep all day, get up that evening and go back to bed that night for 3 or 4 hours, and then stay awake the whole next day. Another option is to stay awake after work, which is pretty hard, and then go to bed early that night. Some people I work with take a 3 or 4 hour nap after their last shift, then make themselves get up so they will go to bed that night... I find that option difficult because I usually won't wake up once I fall asleep (maybe that will change when I have kids!)

Specializes in ICU.

I worked 8hr NOC shifts with a 10 minute commute for 12 years. NO PROBLEM.

Now I'm doing the 3x 12hr NOC shifts with a 45 minute commute and it's killing me too. :dead:

After a year of that, I'm done and moving on.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

If you ARE a night person, you will be fine. And as a 25 year homeschooler- just remember this: school does not have to happen Monday-Friday during the traditional 8a-3p timeframe. . It can be whatever days you want it to be.

I sleep a full eight hours between two consecutive shifts, but only about four on my 'turnaround' day. I would actually be much happier just being on night shift sleep schedule seven days a week, but I would never get to go to church or see my family- all of whom are day people. *Sigh

I work 12 hour night shifts 3 days a week. The days I work vary because of need to fill shift slots. I work every third weekend (Fri-Sun) and try to work W-Th-Fr the other weeks. Don't always get what I request though! I am wide awake all night at work, very rarely feel sleepy and this helps me be safe.

I need at least 6 hours sleep between shifts, so I will get up at around 4PM when the kids get home from school and have had their snack, then I cook dinner, do homework, etc. until hubby gets home.

On my first night off I am dead tired and I sleep until 3. Stagger around like the living dead all afternoon, get a second wind at the time everyone else goes to bed, then I make myself go back to bed between 2-4 AM with help of benedryl and/or 5 HTP. If I don't have any morning plans I keep on this schedule of going to bed 2-4 AM and waking up at around noon or whenever I want. It's common for me to sleep 10 hours that first night off. If I have to do something in the morning I will force myself to bed earlier with help of my friendly meds mentioned above.

It's very hard on the body. But it works out right now because one of us parents is always at home for the kids. I never worry about daycare or summer camp or school breaks. I also feel the extra night pay is very nice. However I do not want to do nights forever.

Specializes in ED.

Thankfully my dh handles the kids (ages 12, 11, 11, and 7) when I'm on a work schedule and they go to public school which helps with sleep. I'll nap for a couple of hours before the first shift, then the next day I'll sleep from 0830-3:30, then when I've finished my last shift of the block, I'll sleep like normal till they get off of school but I"ll still go to sleep that night with the help of extra melatonin or some benadryl. Sometimes I'll get a little insomnia that last night when I'm transitioning but it works so far and I've been doing it since January.

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