How to manage life on night shift?


I have accepted a position on night shift at a hospital pending my state boards. So for those of you who work nights, how do toy manage life? For example, the place I will be working is a 50 minute drive away. My wife is requesting a transfer with her job but cannot be moved until next fall. I'm just concerned about falling asleep at the wheel driving back home.

I read some tips and someone said spend money for a motel, but I can't justify paying 1,000$ a month for a hotel stay - and check in is not until 3 pm (average cost is 75$/night + 16% tax)

Also, how do you manage any social life...spending time with family and friends?


420 Posts

Has 19 years experience.

I work 13 hour nights and have a 45-50 minute commute and it's really not bad at all once you get used to it. I've done it for over 10 years. I usually listen to audio books during my drive. Occasionally I will get sleepy so, I'll roll my windows down and blast the radio. I usually get so interested in my book the commute flies by.

Has 15 years experience.

I used to have an hour commute. It sucked but I never fell asleep. Just make sure you get a nap in on the day of your first night shift so you're not so tired in the drive home. My co-workers offered to let me start at their houses when I was doing my long commute so that could be a possibility. I definitely wouldn't pay for a hotel.

NightNerd, MSN, RN

1,129 Posts

Specializes in CMSRN, hospice. Has 9 years experience.

I live pretty close to work, so unfortunately I can't help much with that. As for having a social life, I try not to plan anything after having worked 2 or 3 nights in a row because I'm useless the first day after. Otherwise I find it pretty easy to keep up with people by having dinner or whatever when I'm off. I do miss the occasional party or trip, but that is hazard of nursing and not just night shift. Hasn't been too much of an issue, just takes a little planning.


57 Posts

Although I'm not yet a nurse, I work 12 hour shifts three times a week and although my commute is fairly short, it was a bit challenging the first few days. I was able to get used to my schedule within two to three weeks. You just need to adjust your schedule accordingly, manage your time correctly, and trick your head into the mentality of pretending (so to speak) that you're not pulling a night shift. I work 7:00pm to 7:00am so the day before my night shift, I sleep throughout the night until 1:00pm. Then I wake up to eat lunch (usually I stay up until 3pm) and then I go back to sleep until 5:30pm. It's really important you give your body the rest it deserves. During your night shift, keep yourself busy and don't start counting down the hours (the night feels longer if you do that). Also, drink a lot of water. On your drive back home, roll down the windows, put loud music on, and stop for some coffee if you get a chance. As for having a social life, well I only have one on my days off. You might also want to purchase some ear plugs and eye mask if you live in a noisy neighborhood. The earplugs didn't work for me, but the eye mask came in handy during those sunny mornings.

Cactus Nurse

165 Posts

Specializes in TBI and SCI.

You will get used to it.... In the beginning it is not easy!! You won't like it, but you will learn what works for you! I personally just sacrifice sleep so that I don't lose my day sleeping. Let's say I get home by 8 or 9... I sleep til about 1pm latest then go and enjoy my day. If I work again that night, I'll take a 2 or 3 hour nap (depending if I can) and there ya go almost 8 hours of sleep....

So I split my sleeping so that I can enjoy the day.. If you sleep a full 8 hours after each shift you will notice you have less time for things... But again you have to get yourself in this rhythm... In the beginning go to work fully rested, then experiment with your sleep on your last shift. It took me about 3 months to get a rhythm. I did graveyard while in nursing school.. that was hard ;-(

Good luck!

Also I recommend black out shades for your bedroom! I bought something called paper shades... they just a little adhesive to the window frame (doesn't ruin paint) and darkens my room pitch black.. it was only $7!!! I bought them at Home Depot and Lowes (if you have those) or whatever big hardware store you have, they will sell them. This will help you fall asleep when you come home!

Cactus Nurse

165 Posts

Specializes in TBI and SCI.

Oh yea, I don't have a social life even before this, but I make time and again sacrifice sleep to spend it with my friends and family... I don't drive when I go out so I can fall asleep whenever I need to lol.

NurseOnAMotorcycle, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,066 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Emergency, CEN. Has 10 years experience.

Social life: I hang out with other night shifters.

EllaBella1, BSN

377 Posts

Specializes in ICU. Has 8 years experience.

I work nights and also have a 50-60 minute commute. It's not bad, but it does definitely make it harder to have a social life. I tend to hang out with night shift people too, and any time I want to do something that is a daytime activity I have to remember to schedule myself off the night before as well as the night of the event so that I can be there and be awake/enjoy it.


157 Posts

Thanks folks keep the suggestions coming. It may only be for a year because my wife is,requesting a move but cannot move until next year. My precepting was nights and only lived 20 minutes away

loriangel14, RN

6,931 Posts

Specializes in Acute Care, Rehab, Palliative.

50 minutes is really not that bad. I just do my social stuff when I'm off. The night before my first night shift I just stay up all night and then sleep all day.

Specializes in Cardio-Pulmonary; Med-Surg; Private Duty. Has 5 years experience.

What works best for me is to do all three in a row, then have four days off. Other people like to break it up so they can catch up on sleep in between shifts.

When I have a long drive home, I scope out safe places to catnap along the way. If you're feeling drowsy, it's better to take a 20-minute catnap in a parking lot than it is to risk falling asleep at the wheel. I just set an alarm on my phone and snooze away.

Another way to stay awake while driving is to eat something. Unfortunately, this can lead to gaining weight, so choose wisely! But a sandwich baggie filled with cereal worked well for me -- eating each piece one at a time took more time, and kept my brain alert enough to stay awake. Another concept is to fill a big cup with ice water and leave the lid off and hold it in one hand... you aren't as likely to fall asleep when your brain is actively trying to prevent a spill.

If you find yourself having trouble sleeping during the day after you get home from your shift, cut out caffeine (coffee, tea, pop/soda) by 2am at the latest. Switch to decaffeinated / caffeine-free liquids.

I also try to not drink anything the last couple hours of a shift, or I end up having to wake up to pee all day long -- being a guy, your bladder is bigger, so that may not be a problem for you.

Aluminum foil taped to your bedroom windows can cut down light in the bedroom without buying expensive curtains/shades, if ambient light is a problem.

Wear sunglasses on the way home -- avoid that sunlight in your face, as it "wakes up" your brain.

Put a sign on your door that says, "Night shift worker sleeping -- please do not disturb"!

If you're renting, is it possible to find a home halfway between your work and your wife's work? Cutting down on that commute will allow you more time for sleep between shifts.

There's a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for you -- just keep experimenting!