Night Shift Jet Lag??

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Med Surg, Float, Travel.

I have been working on a Med Surg floor @ night for about 8 months now. It's my first job out of nursing school. For the first several months, I was doing okay keeping a night shift schedule when working, then on my few days off in a row, waking up in the AM to do my phone calls, errands, etc, and then going to bed around 11 PM. Now I try as hard as I can to keep my night shift schedule on all my days off because when I wake up in the morning at a "normal" hour (usually by accident or an appointment of some kind in the morning), I feel tired, nauseous, not motivated, and just end up laying around and being SUPER unproductive. I guess it's because my body is used to my night shift schedule by now and is telling my not to stray from it. But can anyone tell me technically what is going on with my body/hormones/internal clock/etc. Do some of you nurses that work night shift feel this way when you are awake in the morning/early afternoon? Is it like jet lag minus the plane/real time zone change? Thanks so much for any advice! :clown:

Specializes in Medical Surgical & Nursing Manaagement.

I did 12 hour nights for about 8 years. Here's how I did it. I started by working three in a row for probably the first year or so, because it just worked for me and my family. I changed to working two on followed by minimally two off, so the rhythm I developed was for as many days as I worked, I needed the same number of days off. After working if I was scheduled that night, I slept to take the edge off, about 3 hours and then functioned like everyone else in the world and went to bed as if I worked days. Sometimes I would catch a nap the day I was going back but really didn't need to nap. Hope this helps.

Sorry I cant give any scientific advice about your symptoms/dilemma. I CAN tell you that some people can adapt to nights, some cannot. You will get physically ill if you continue to try! Please seek daytime employment,, I am sure you needed during the waking hours!:yawn:

I recently started nights and the following helped me, I usually sleep from 0900-0500, i keep this schedule even when not working:

- blocking the light on window with a huge dark blanket

- using eye covers

- using ear plugs

- exercising once I wake up

- no caffeine 4 hours before sleeping

- at least 3 liters of water (more caffeine means more diuresis)

- as for errands I will stay up late one day till like 12 Noon and run the errands, I have set up all bills to be paid online, so I can do it at night. I take out cash once a month so I don't have to go to the bank again.

Good luck, I hope you feel better soon, I also second the suggestion of seeking daytime employment when and if possible.

Specializes in psych, general, emerg, mash.

nights is not good for the body in general! You WILL have a difficult time! catch a nap before you go in. No amount of sleeping meds or anxiety meds will help..been there done that!

do a lot of walking, take turns at night having a nap! You WILL feel like ****, but you have to put up with it.

OR seek another job! Think of the cops and firemen who have to do the same. Your NOT the only one with this problem.

Specializes in OB.

As a long term night shifter (about 28 years now) what I do is keep to a semi-night schedule on days off. I am generally up until about 4 am and then sleep until about 11 am. This gives you the afternoon to do things that are only available during "normal business hours" without totally messing with your sleep schedule. If there is something that I must schedule for early morning I make it for my first morning when I get off, before I go to bed.

Specializes in Psych/CD/Medical/Emp Hlth/Staff ED.

When I first started on nights it was actually easier than now, I think because my system was so confused it didn't know when it was supposed to be asleep and when it wasn't. Now, after years of nights, I find I can't to a complete switch to a daytime schedule on my days off without being a zombie, regardless of whether I'm behind on sleep or not.

I work long stretches on and long stretches off (6 on/8 off) which I've found works best for me. I actually sleep best during my stretch on because it is the most consistent. During my time off I go to sleep progressively earlier for the first few days until I'm going to sleep at about 2 or 3 and getting up around 10 or 11. I've found this is the most I can adjust to a "normal" schedule without being miserable.

I was miserable on nights but I did manage for several years. I could never work 2 nights in a row. I'd come home so tired, fall asleep immediately and within 3 to 4 hours I would be WIDE awake, no matter what I did in terms of benadryl, wine, etc....I would not be able to get back to sleep. Then I'd have trouble falling asleep at night. It was a wild vicious cycle that I don't ever want to repeat. Some nurses handle it well and wouldn't want to ever change shifts. Try the different hints and give it a couple of months. If it doesn't work you'll just have to find a day shift postion.

Hope this helps...I have been working night shift for a little over a year and I must admit it does take a toll on your body. At first I started working my 3 required shifts in a row. The key is to take a nap before you go in. Normally, I get home around 8:30 so I take a shower and jump right in the bed. I have never been able to sleep past 2pm. When I wake up, I grab a snack and try to lay back down by 3 to take a nap before I go in.

Specializes in Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery Recovery.

:redpinkhe I agree with the first post entirely. I've worked nights for 3 years now. If you have self scheduling, try to work your 3 nights in a row. When you get home from your last night only sleep until about 1. That way you can get up, tired, but up. Then go to bed that night like normal. And live youre next 3 days ona day schedule. I have never been able to "keep a night shift" schedule. Ofcourse if you can't self schedule, this is all mute. If you truelly hate it TRY to get a dayshift position. I know that's impossible in some scenarios, but speak with your manager about it and maybe he/she can help you out.

Specializes in ICU.

I worked nights for several years and never fully adjusted to the schedule. Here's a link to an article about the negative physiological effects of working night shift:

Specializes in Peds Medical Floor.

I've worked FT nights for 2 years. I keep a schedule. Even on my days off I don't go to bed before 7 am. It sucks, but it feels better than trying to sleep at night. When people talk about "how nice" it is to have the whole day I have to explain that yes I still need to sleep lol. I sleep when other people are at work, work when other people sleep.

I approached it like jet lag. I didn't let myself sleep until 7 am no matter how tired I was on my days off until I was used to it. I use a fan to cancel out noise and a sleep mask is my best friend. I also turn my phone off because no matter how many times I asked people not to call unless it's an emergency, people would call anyways.

I was thinking about going to Thailand later this year. Out of all my friends I'd be the only one not experiencing jet lag!!

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