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I just accepted my first nursing job and it a night shift! I could use some advice on how to survive. How to you prepare? Or any advice in general! Thanks


Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

Lots of coffee. Make sure you get adequate sleep during the day.Carry a small flashlight in your pocket.


Specializes in critical care/emergency departement. Has 10 years experience.

Lots of coffee. Make sure you get adequate sleep during the day.Carry a small flashlight in your pocket.

I agree with you!

I try to rest/sleep as much as possible, I have a light dinner and...lots of coffee :)

Anyway I think it is also a matter of experience and, above all, habit!

Good luck for your job!

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 40 years experience.

There are TONS of threads regarding this topic. Do a search and learn from the collected wisdom of the elders!

Good luck- 37 years on nights and counting!

firstinfamily, RN

Has 33 years experience.

I may be joining you soon!! Years ago I worked nights mostly 11-7 and sleep did become a major issue for me. I learned to desensitize myself with ear plugs, eye masks, had darkening shades on my bedroom window and developed a routine that seemed to work for me. When we changed to 12 hour shifts I had more difficulty as I could not get an evening nap like I did with 11-7. I would be sleepy by 01:00 and have another 6 hours to go!! I tried to sleep as best as I could but still did not get enough. I haven't worked nights since 2003, occasionally picked up a few night shifts, but not consistently. So, I know I may have to learn how to adjust all over again. When I was off, I would still keep a night-shift schedule so that I did not have to re-set my body clock when I returned to work. My family slept while I did laundry, vacuuming etc. Night work is not natural for the human circadium rhythm, but you can adjust your body clock for what you need to do. I did not drink coffee when I worked nights. I just ran on natural energy.


Specializes in ICU. Has 3 years experience.

I have been working nights for a little over a year, and have worked nights long-term on a couple of other occasions in the past. Truthfully, I prefer to work nights, at least in my current position.

I'm a little bit unique in that I don't have children (no human ones, anyway) and my husband is on long-term disability but has the ability to take care of things around the house, including the dogs. This is a HUGE benefit for me because it enables me to adjust my sleep schedule pretty much to my own needs and preferences. I realize I'm very fortunate in this aspect, but here's how I handle working nights:

The night before I have to return to work for more than one shift, I stay up all night, or as late as I'm able to. Then, I can sleep all day. If I only have to work one shift, or we're just coming back from vacation, I try to get up as early in the morning as possible (by 6AM or so). I shower and do whatever needs to be done, then lay down again around noon and sleep (or rest, if sleep isn't happening) until 5ish.

Good luck...nights definitely takes some adjusting!

QuarterLife88, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in Neuroscience. Has 8 years experience.

I've been on nights for almost one year now, and to be honest, I have never fully gotten used to it. The first month I lost like 5lbs because I didn't know how to eat at night, and when I would come home I would be so exhausted and just pass out.

The first night before a 2 or 3 day stretch of work is the worst, because on my days off I switch back to a day time schedule. Not because I have to, but because I want to see daylight! So I usually accidentally, sleep through the night and then I'm up almost all day except for a nap, and then up all night at work. Last week I was up for 26 hours straight because of my messed up sleep cycling.

I constantly feel jet-lagged. By the time I start to feel normal again it's time to go back to work.

On a good day, I get home from work around 8:15am, fall asleep around 9:15, and wake up around 3 or 4pm. I don't drink coffee or energy drinks as I cannot stand either one. I usually eat something when I get home before I sleep, and a small snack before I leave. Usually a bigger meal overnight during my breaks.

I would sign up for day shift except I'd be taking a pay cut for far more aggravation. No thank you.


Specializes in EDUCATION;HOMECARE;MATERNAL-CHILD; PSYCH. Has 25 years experience.

Make sure to get some exercise.

Thank you so much everyone!!! I appreciate all the advice. One stupid question... Why carry a little flash light?


Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

You enter someones room to see if theyre breathing you dont want to turn on a bright light and wake them up. Or you just want a good look at their IV site and don't want to wake them up.

Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience.

I myself could not adjust. Lost weight because I could not eat... slept the entire time I was off.

I'm not trying to scare you.. just want you to be aware if any major health issues should arise.

Try any of the tricks of the trade provided here.. best of luck to you.

Realize that not everyone can adjust, and know when to say when.

firstinfamily, RN

Has 33 years experience.

I use to use the flashlight when making rounds because that was how I made sure everyone's chest was moving up and down!!! You need to check your patients as soon as you come on, not later. Plus, I made routine rounds, even if I did not have to do a task in the patient's room, you do not want to wake them up by turning on the room lights, so a flashlight worked great!!


Specializes in LTC.

Also using the flashlight when you walk into a darkened room. you flash it onto the floor just so you don't trip over anything (like pump electric cords or spills).

And if you're ever in a hallway during a power outage, it takes a few seconds for the backup generator to kick in. You will be in total darkness/blackness. If you're anything like me, I get dizzy immediately in blackness and I have pulled out my trusty little pocket flashlight so I can reach a wall to hold on to.

Survival tip!

Get one big enough to do the job, but small enough to fit into your pocket. And have some spare batteries for yourself.

I have flashlights in my purse, my car, my bedroom end table, my bathroom, etc. I don't like the dark!

I would disagree with the lots of coffee comments.

Actually research shows that drinking coffee on night shifts will drag you down in the long run.

I suggest lots and lots of water, high protein snacks, and good self care on your days off.


Specializes in hospice.

Guess I'm an outlier then, because coffee has been working for me for the last three years!


Specializes in nurseline,med surg, PD. Has 50+ years experience.

True about the coffee. However to each his own. Diet drinks and Splenda are bad for you and people still consume them. Actually you do want to watch your diet. Easy to lose good health habits when you work a weird schedule.


Specializes in hospice.

Yes, I eat well and exercise in addition to the coffee. I think that makes a difference. I'm also very protective of my sleep time, because that's important staying healthy. And I use actual sugar and milk products in my coffee, because yeah, artificial sweeteners not only taste awful, I find them scary.

I was also a long term coffee drinker before I ever started working nights. I don't know if that makes a difference, but I suspect it might.