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Night Shift Woes...When Do You Sleep On Your Days Off????

Hiya all :) I have been reading your posts for quite awhile as the topics pop up on my facebook. Just signed up today and I've been sitting and reading lots of topics and really enjoying them. I have been a nurse for over 20 yrs and a nurse aide prior to that. Everyone here seems to have good advice for people with questions or issues needing to be resolved. So here I am LOL with my tale of woe. I hope to get some good advice :)

I have been working nightshift for the past 3 years. I don't really care for it, but I have medical issues which cause chronic pain and I just can't keep up on any other shift. I work in a Basic Care Facility in which our Residents need care, but not to the extent of a SNF. So it is not as busy as most LTC facilities. I seem to be able to keep up with the pace on nights.

My issue is my days off, I tend to keep with my working schedule. I work 11pm- 8am, I come home and putz around doing what I have to do then I watch TV or read until I get tired. So I sleep from about 12-1pm til about 8-9pm. This works for me as my kids are grown and off on their own and my 2 furbabies ( dogs ) are used to my schedule now. But on my days off I tend to follow the same schedule as if I was working. That would be fine if it didn't interfere in other aspects of my life, but it does. My family, most of which are also in healthcare careers work day shifts. So I miss out on family activities because I just can't sleep normal hours. I have been told by others who work nights that it is good to keep the same schedule 7 days a week. This would be great if I could sleep from 9am-5pm and have the evening for activities, but unfortunately my habits take up the afternoon and most of the evening. I have tried going to sleep by 9am, but I just can't.

So I was just wondering what schedules other nightshift nurses have and how they deal with it? How do you keep your schedules when you are off work? It is 4am here CST and of course I'm wide awake. I would so love to go to the pool or the lake with the grandkids, but I would just be too tired. I'm not able to retire and I don't want to go through the aggravation of applying for disability even though I would be eligible I've heard horror stories from others. I'm looking forward to seeing how others deal with this :)


Has 30 years experience. Specializes in L&D, Women's Health.

I always worked three nights in a row. On those days, I'd usually sleep from 10AM-6PM. On my days off, I'd stay up until 3-4AM then sleep till 11-noon. This worked for me as it gave me time for doctor appointments, some interaction with day-shift friends, etc.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Has 14 years experience. Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

I work three to four 12-hour night shifts per week from 6:00pm to 6:30am. On my days off I'll usually nap during the day, awaken in the early afternoon, be up all evening, and take another nap late at night.

adnrnstudent, ASN, RN

Has 5 years experience.

I work 12's and as the Slaughter song goes, "Up all night, sleep all day!"

joanna73, BSN, RN

Specializes in geriatrics.

I used to work permanent nights and I maintained a similar sleep schedule on my days off. Meaning I was up at night and slept during the day. On average, I went to bed around 0700am and woke up at 1500.

This worked well for me because I don't have children and I could still do things in the late afternoon. Nights work best if you are able to maintain a similar schedule.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Has 40 years experience. Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

I work permanent nights. Get home, take an Ambien and have breakfast with DH. Go to bed by 9 AM, up at 4 PM. On my nights off, I'm usually sleepy by 4 AM, so go to bed then and get up when I wake up -- sometime between 10 and 2. That leaves afternoons and evenings for a social life. There are times I have to stay up later for a doctor's appointment or get up early for some reason, but it works for me with the help of drugs. Better living through chemistry!

calivianya, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

It's really the sleeping until 2100 that's killing you, IMO. It's awfully difficult to go to sleep 12 hours after you woke up - or at least it is for me. One thing you could do is start setting an alarm for 1700, even on days that you work, and just do whatever it is you do in the morning after 1700 instead. I guarantee you'll get tired earlier if you start waking up earlier.

Also - I agree with the better living through chemistry. :) That's a beautiful phrase. If I feel particularly wired and like I'm not going to sleep, I either pop an Ambien or a diphenhydramine and that helps a lot. I still have my 30-count bottle of Ambien I got refilled in November, if that gives you an idea of how often I take it, but it's getting a little low. If you take an Ambien at 0900 and set your alarm for 1700 that day, I almost guarantee you'll start getting tired by 0900 the next day.

I work friday ,saturday and sunday from 6pm to 7am.I won't sleep monday after night shift stay engaged with kids activities and stuff.Will go to bed around 7.30 or 8.So I will be back to regular sleeping schedule.If you can't stay awake whole day you can sleep for few hours and wake up before noon and get engaged with some activities. .By evening you will get tired and sleepy.


Has 35 years experience. Specializes in ICU,ER,med-Surg,Geri,Correctional.

That was the hardest thing in my career. was getting sleep while working and then re-regulating sleep on days off. I was so adamant about not sleeping my entire day off that I would come home have my wife wake me up in 4hrs. Drink a big Sundrop or Jolt Cola. Then drag but all day, and have her to all the driving. I lived like a zombie. This went on for 15years. Until I had a 3p-3A ER job and that was the best hours. Require no turn around. Got up between 10-11 everyday. In fact now that I am retired I still mostly live on this time schedule. If you get the opportunity to land a 3A-3P time goes fast, cause you are busy as can be in an ER at these times. But it worked great for me. In fact later in my career I went into a executive position on the road and I missed the old 3-3 shift...

Edited by dnnc52
missed word

I flip between 12 hr days/nights. When I'm getting ready for a night shift, I stay up as late as possible. After working a night shift, the way I get myself to flip back to a day shift is to not go to bed until around 10 or 11, then get myself back up at 2pm. Granted, I am nothing but a bump on a log when I get back up, but I'm awake!


Has 11 years experience. Specializes in Med-Surg., Oncology, Observational Units.

For myself, I work 12 hour nights during the week. I have worked night shifts for four years in my career. I think the first thing to do is get other areas of health dialed in like eating right and exercising consistently (PM me if you want more info on this). I feel doing this allows me to be more resilient to the stresses night shift places on my circadian rhythms. I plan on going back to days as soon as this new job at the VA will let me.

As soon as I come home I am tired and will go straight to bed around 9 to 930am. I typically sleep until 3 or 330pm. I am typically able to go to sleep around 1030 or 11 pm the night after my last night shift even though I slept during the day. Things that help me get the best sleep possible are keeping my room at 72 degrees or lower, wear an eye mask and make sure your room is dark, do not drink too much liquid or coffee after 5am, have a quiet environment to sleep in with no pets in the bed with you. Also, keep the phone out of your bedroom and do not watch any tv before going to bed. Let your family know you are sleeping and not to disturb you unless it is necessary. Good quality sleep is critical for you felling your best. Oh, do not exercise before you go to bed because it raise your body temperature and makes it hard for your body to settle down for rest. Exercise when you wake up and go for a walk in the sun at that time as well. Also, I would try to stay off any sleep aid medications and suggest rubbing lavender oil on the bottom of your feet as a natural sleep aid before you go to bed.

Hope this helps!

I do days but I normally do nights as a three in a row kind of pattern. 7PM-8AM. I normally sleep 9AM-3PM when I'm on nights. Not very much considering I would normally sleep 10PM until 6AM for a day shift... I also find it soooo hard to switch back into 'day mode' after I've done my night shifts... I sort of turn into an owl; wide awake in the night and then sleeping through the day.

I work 10pm-6am Mon-Wed, I get home around 645 sleep by 7am and wake up by 1030am. My body automatically wakes up by 1030am, I don't take naps in between and don't get too tired during the day. This just works for me.


Specializes in Intake, Home Care.

Loving these tips! I just got started on nights and the first week was the worst! Slowly but surely getting used to it and keeping up my fitness as well!

I'm an agency nurse and work pretty much any shift offered to me (and that is usually midnights) If I have a couple of mid's in a row, I'm in bed by 9a and up by 4p so I can enjoy some daylight time. When I'm coming off mid's to some days off I go right to bed and catch a short (4 hr) catnap. I'm still sleepy, but it is at least daylight and then I'm ready to go to bed that night at a semi-normal time. In the reverse order before a midnight shift, I'll get up in the morning, enjoy my day and grab 2-3 hour nap before my shift. It works for me. I'd be very depressed if I was only awake in the dark.


Has 18 years experience. Specializes in Orthopedics, Med-Surg.

There is a reason they pay nurses more to work nights than any other shift: the sacrifice of a normal family life is a significant part of that.

Back in my night shift days, pardon the pun, I stuck to the same schedule every day, no matter whether I was working or not. I usually crawled into bed between 0830 and 0900 and slept until mid afternoon. Then I did whatever needed to be done before office hours closed. I might catch a short nap in the evening before work if I felt tired.

You say there's a reason you need to work nights. Could you make it financially as a weekender? I took a relatively small cut in pay (looking at the paycheck) for switching to working Saturdays and Sundays on a 12 hour shift. You can get a lot done Monday through Friday if you don't have to work. You also tend not to see much administration on the weekends. What's not to like?

Tony1790, BSN, MSN, NP

Has 11 years experience. Specializes in Rheumatology/Emergency Medicine.

I have been working nights for the last 7 months, it's killing me sleep wise, I can't sleep mainly due to being stressed, buying house, in a MSN program, etc. When I'm off I try to switch to a normal day/sleep rotation, so my first night shift, I wake up at 8am and am up all day doing errands, etc, then I work all night, so I'm awake at least 24 hours, but a good part of the time, I'm up taking classes, etc that 2nd day and then work all night, so that's 48 hours awake. Then there are weeks like this week, I woke up wed morning at 6am and I finally got to sleep at 10pm on friday, so that's 62 hours awake! I just started a new rotation doing 5 on, 5 off, so I hope that I won't have as many long days being awake with few day to night to day flip flops!


I feel for you. I've worked nights and swing shift since 2000 and since I had small children it was my best shift option. My best advice is stick to a schedule. A lot of people try and pull you from your routine for their personal wants, but in my experience you are more likely to suffer than them. I come home and eat a protein filled breakfast and sleep 4 to five hours on my day off and resume my regular sleep schedule at 10 pm on my days off.

I work no more than two shifts in a row and take a 1 hour nap before work. Basically I don't fight against my clock and I sleep great.

I pay attention to the older nurses advice it is usually spot on. Don't take medications you become dependent.

Good luck and stay well.

The only people who should be working the night shift are people who love doing it and not because they have to. Numerous studies indicate that it will ruin your health and I would very strongly suggest that you get off that shift and find work that you can tolerate during the day. Your body will thank you for it especially as you continue to age. I worked a night shift in the newborn nursery for two years, 7p-7a, and it absolutely ruined my internal clock. It's never been right since and that was 30 years ago. If you absolutely must, make sure that your sleep room is absolutely dark with not even an ounce of light coming in. That shift will ruin any social life you might have but it's important that you maintain the same schedule even on your days off.

I've been working nights for a few years now, it's hard and it can put a strain on family life. You just have to figure out exactly how much sleep you need to function properly (and safely) and get that amount. As for days off, personally I try to "reset" myself by getting a few hours on my first morning off, then get up and soldier through the day. I usually get about 6 hours that night then I'm back on track. It takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you. Good luck!!


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