Night shift exhaustion


  • Specializes in Transition nursing and couplet care. Has 3 years experience.

I have been working the night shift for 3 years now. I have no problems at work with being tired, I get sleepy occasionally when I have a good group of patients, but usually am fine at work. It us my days off that are the problem. Not just the first day. Some weeks I can function like a normal person, but other weeks I feel like I could nap all day and still sleep at night - well most of the time. There are other weeks that I am awake half the night, but not always. My schedule is so messed up. Anyone else with these bizarre sleep patterns?

adventure_rn, BSN

1 Article; 1,544 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU.

Yeah, I feel you, I have almost the exact same problem. Usually when I'm done with a stretch of nights, I end up coming home, sleeping all day, waking up to eat and pee, then sleeping all night.

The best thing I've found to get on a normal person schedule is to keep my blinds wide open. As a night-shifter, blackout shades are my best friend, but I find that when I leave them closed 24/7 I end up sleeping way more than I need to the rest of the week. I also try to make definitive plans outside of the house that I can't easily back out of at the last minute. For better or worse, there are still some weeks that are just a lost cause.

EllaBella1, BSN

377 Posts

Specializes in ICU. Has 8 years experience.

Yup, me. I've kind of learned to listen to my body and embrace it at this point. I let myself sleep for 11-12 hours on my days off if I need it. I find that when I let myself do that, I tend to wake up the next day feeling more refreshed than if I try to limit myself to a 'normal' number of sleep hours. Let's face it, nothing that we are doing to ourselves in terms of sleep is normal at this point. lol.

NightNerd, MSN, RN

1,129 Posts

Specializes in CMSRN, hospice. Has 9 years experience.

I feel this. As much as I LOVE sleeping, I don't like spending most of my days off doing just that. Last week I slept for most of my first two days off, and then was basically wired and couldn't do more than cat-nap until going back to work. I try to listen to my body and be patient with myself when I'm tired, but it's hard when I know there's so much else I want to be doing! I love night shift so much, but I'm contemplating a change to days in a year or two if I can't figure this out. =/

midgeypoo, LPN

1 Article; 26 Posts

I feel your pain. Guess each person is different. I do not require 8 hours of sleep but yes, night shift took some getting used to.

My pattern of working 3 12-hour shifts per week on nights - I would, of course, drink coffee all night and stay busy most nights. Drive home was the hardest especially on sunny days sometimes feeling like I want to fall asleep at the wheel.

Lucky I never did fall asleep driving home. Then I'd get home and have a total 2nd wind and be wide awake. So I'd take this quiet time with the kids in school already to get bills paid, make important phone calls and such. I would basically stay awake until I felt tired. And Yes (room darkening shades) are a must and a blessing. I would end up in bed by around 11-12pm and sleep till around 5pm, then it was up and get ready for another 12 hours.

But that's just me - as I said I do not require as much as some people do.

I found if I worked 2 shifts in row with maybe 1 day off and work the 3rd....then have like 3 days off I could deal with that best.

Most nurses i worked with went to bed as soon as they get home. I'm one of the odd ducks that could not possibly do that till I decompress anyway. I worked 10 years on nights.

It does mess up your sleep cycle big time and even some bodily functions too (I hated that) but you have to find ways around it I guess if you like nights enough.

My biggest issue was missing out on some family events because I worked nights.

Some relatives did not understand that my days were actually my nights and they call my house when I was trying to sleep, slam the phone down, leave messages and call back to see if I'd pick up. Uh....nooo!

And of course, there's always that neighbor who loves to crank up his riding mower at the moment your head hits the pillow. Or the delivery guy who keeps you waiting on your sleep time for that delivery so you can sleep for work. But again, those you also learn to deal with.

I would just have this kind of unspoken "off-limits" when Mom's in the bedroom with her door closed. The kids all knew not to wake me - Dad was around and could handle things. One day my little one just had to come tell Mom something - she runs into the dark bedroom with big sister chasing after her screaming "OMG Noooo....we don't wake up Mom unless someone is Dead or Dying".....I thought I'd die laughing - as I was not asleep yet anyway.

I wish you luck. See what works best for you and your lifestyle and know that not everyone can work nights and it's ok too.

take care !

Specializes in ICU.

Yes. I totally feel you. I've been off for several days yet still slept until 11 this morning and I felt so lazy because I was still tired.

Night shift just messes with you. I feel like my differential should be more as it messes up my whole life.


927 Posts

exactly why I hate night shift + 12 hrs shift. people are like oh you get 3 days off, and I'm like yeah and you're asleep those 3 days to recover...

if you can, get out of night shift. studies show it's not our normal pattern, and is detrimental to our health in the long term. I'm personally aiming to get out of it myself. I did it while in nursing school; as a new grad nurse I took it because it was my only way in and I'm committed to it for the time being. But once I can jump ship, I plan on doing so.

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 8 years experience.

I jumped ship, after being on nights for close to 8 years without the ability to move to days in the foreseeable future. I recently accepted a FT day position at a Level I Trauma Center's SICU. I'm nervous beyond belief but oh so happy to not be on nights any longer.

I advise people as a previous poster mentioned to get out of night shift as soon as possible, it really wrecks the body and mind in more ways than I can list.

Kitiger, RN

1,776 Posts

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 44 years experience.

If I don't work the next night, I'll sleep about 4 hours (use the alarm clock if necessary) and then get up. I'll hop on the bike or go for a brisk walk if I feel groggy. That wakes me up and I can feel energetic.

Even so, the first day off after a string of nights will mean less energy that usual. I then sleep the night, and feel fine thereafter.


28 Posts

I am in the same boat. Yesterday I slept from 9am until 4 pm, then I got up and went back to sleep from 11pm until 7 am. I am sitting here now ready to fall back asleep. I feel like my life is passing me by, not to mention the strain it is taking on my relationship with my partner. We are like ships passing in the night. All I do is eat, sleep, and work. It's horrible. My sleep patterns are so all over the place. It is really difficult to stick to a routine that works for real life.