Jump to content

night workers- how do you keep a normal routine/life?

Has 13 years experience. Specializes in Periop, ER.


I am contemplating taking a night position on a unit where I think I could learn alot. The position unfortunately is at night 7p-7a. How do those of you who work nights, and are not necessarily night owls, maintain some semblance of normalcy? When do you exercise? How do you handle sleeping on the nights you don't work? Do you still stay up all night? :idea:


Specializes in Critical Care, Operating Room.

you asked how we keep a normal routine.. I don't. LOL the good news is, I've found ways to make it work for me until I can go to day shift.. the bad news is that my life is anything but 'normal' LOL

nurse2033, MSN, RN

Specializes in ER, ICU.

I don't have any sense of normalcy and like it that way. I exercise when I get up and enjoy commuting, shopping, and the trail system crowd free. I'm always flipping between days and nights depending on my schedule and my family.

I work days/evenings/nights which makes it a lot more difficult than just nights. Lately, I have been mostly working just nights. If i have a few days off in a row. I might go to sleep around 3-4 am and get up at 12 or 1pm so I dont completely waste my day. The last few months I have not been exercising much or going out or doing anything. I feel like I just sleep and go to work. It is very diffiuclt to keep an active social life with such a different schedule everyweek and not having any friends that work nights. When I want to go out everyone else is asleep. Factor in that my days off are usually during the week and it is that much worse. Either way I would still rather work nights.

Sun0408, ASN, RN

Has 4 years experience. Specializes in Trauma Surgical ICU.

I live a normal life lol, what ever that means right. But to answer your question, I sleep in late on the days I work nights... After working that shift I come home and sleep until about 3.. Nights I am off I go to bed with the rest of my family and have no issues with it.. I only work 3 days a week so its not hard to do.. I have been doing it for over a year and have not had any problems with doing it this way.. I tried staying up all night even when I didn't have to work and that was lonely. I shop etc before I go to work.. Everyone finds what works best for them and this has worked the best so far :)

I think someone should start a social networking site for night shifters, allowing meetups, etc for specific geographic regions...And then sell it for millions and millions of dollars!

It is very diffiuclt to keep an active social life with such a different schedule everyweek and not having any friends that work nights. When I want to go out everyone else is asleep. Factor in that my days off are usually during the week and it is that much worse. Either way I would still rather work nights.

What works for me:

If I work nights and they are not clustered(in a row) then I come home and sleep for about 4hrs. It is a functionable amount of time and I am still able to sleep in the evening with my family.

If I work clustered nights then I sleep for about 6 hrs and then take a 30min nap before I go to work in the evening.

I personally struggle more with clustered days because I feel like I sleep my day away. I don't mind the nights but I loath working weekends:)

Oh yeah, exercising is done right after I wake up. I sleep less than most because my kids get out of school at 2:30 so I make sure I'm always there for that.


Specializes in critical care, PCU, PACU, LTC, HHC, AFC.

Nights isn't really that bad, though it has it advantages and disadvantages just like any other schedule. I have been on nights since 2004, and I remember the first month or two it took me a while to adjust to making it past the 3am 'hump' of the shift. Now that I think about it I think this is where i developed my avid coffee drinking habit, no wait that was nursing school lol.

My work schedule is also 7p to 7a, and my sleep schedule is usually 9a - 3p. I perfer to get up and exercise when I wake up, then eat 'breakfast', get ready and head into work. The things I really like about nights is I feel like I have more time if I want to go grocery shopping, make a doctors appt, go to class etc. I can do that when I get out of work in the morning or before work if I choose. The things I dont like about nights is I dont feel like I have a normal eating schedule, I do get a lunch break, but its hard to find time for that 3rd meal, especially if something is going on in the unit. On my days off I find I stay up at night, but that might not work for you. I do know one nurse I work with, that on her last stretch of days she works, when she gets home in the morning, she sleeps 8a-12p, gets up and starts her day, and then re-adjust to a day schedule. On her first night back she usually just stays up all day and night (not recommened, but it happens lol), others I know try to squeeze in a nap for at least 3 hours.

As far as experience on nights I think you can get a fair amount of experience. On day shift you see more procedures, test, actually speak to most of the doctors face to face, and overall just crazy busy. However on nights we have our own busy streaks too, especially if its 2am and the 'ish' hits the fan. There is not alot of staff around so you and your team depend alot on each other for support. I also find on nights I debate on calling the doctor in the middle of the night or can it wait till he rounds, or is this something I can pass on to the next shift.

I did at one point have to work day shift for a year, and that I did not like, getting up at 5am was not my cup of tea I'd rather stay up and be up at 5am lol. When it comes to family planning and get togethers if someone tries planning something say at noon and I worked the night before I like to remind people your noon is 'my midnight' lol.

Overall I really enjoy nights and I am not sure if or when I will ever take a dayshift spot, but I dont think it would hurt to give nights a try. Just give yourself time to adjust and see what works for you. If it works it works if it doesnt it doesn't, at least you tried.


Has 6 years experience. Specializes in med/surg/onc.

I work steady night shift... so does my spouse (also a nurse)...

When working my nights, I sleep from 10am until 5pm... I actually find that I am more refreshed than if I had gone to bed at 10pm and woken at 5am... I eat "breakfast" before heading into work then eat "lunch" around 2am... I have a slight addiction to McDonald's breakfast menu, so I get my fix on the way home... I used my "morning time" to run any urgent errands or spend some time playing with dog and watching my morning shows...

When I am off, I do stay up all night but only until about 4am... I try to wake up by 10am or 12pm at the latest... At night, I clean my house, do laundry, catch up on DVR'ed TV shows, or even go to the grocery store... I find it way to difficulty to flop back and forth, so I just stay on a night routine... I also teach an evening class one day a week, so that helps to fill some of the "lonely" time at night with all of the paperwork...

I've worked nights since for 20+ years, the first 2 were 11-7, 7-7 since then. My "schedule" has changed greatly over the years, it really depends on your life. I've gone from single and living with parents to married, to 1 kid, to 2 kids. Every change in my life resulted in a change in my sleep patterns! With kids (I was a late bloomer, they're 11 and 7) I believe I see more of them now than if I worked 12 hr days.

My dad was a coal miner, as was all the men that lived around my parents. They took night shift and allowing the men to get their sleep seriously--as a kid, I knew what neighbor was sleeping and knew not to be yelling near their yard! That respect for sleep made a huge difference in how I adjusted to this schedule. It amazes me that coworkers get phone calls all during the day while they're trying to sleep from their families, who are amazed that they're sleeping! Over really stupid stuff!

Be willing to try nights--you might like it. And, we have cookies.....

kool-aide, RN

Has 5 years experience. Specializes in Cardiac.

We don't.

Music in My Heart

Has 10 years experience. Specializes in being a Credible Source.

I flip back and forth between being a day sleeper and a night sleeper. On the first day of my rotation I wake up in the morning and then stay up through the day and then my NOC shift. Sometimes I'm able to nap for a couple of hours before but often not.

I then sleep 10-hour days between nights 1 & 2 and nights 2 & 3. The morning after my third shift I sleep for 5-6 hours and then get up for a few hours and then go back to sleep that night. I stay a night sleeper until the whole thing starts all over again.

It's not easy but it works for me.


Specializes in LTC/Skilled Care/Rehab.

I feel like I actually have more of a life than when I was working days. I am married with kids so I didn't have much life to begin with LOL. I usually get to sleep around 9a and then wake up around 2:30 before my kids get out of school. Unless my hubby is home, then I get to sleep a little more. If I am really tired I will take a nap before going to work at 11. Working day shift I generally never got home before 5 or 6p. I was also so tired and stressed from running around all day that I had no energy for anything else. I like the interaction of day shift, but the stress of never sitting down or taking a break was wearing me out. I may switch back to dayshift if a position opens up but nights aren't all that bad. For me 3-11 was the worst shift. I never saw my family.


Has 11 years experience. Specializes in Hem/Onc/BMT.

From my personal experience, the key to the successful adjustment to night shift was making sure I sleep in the morning when I come back from work.

The first time I tried a steady night shift work, I was full-time student and had classes in the morning. My plan was to go to school right after work and sleep from 3pm - 9pm and go to work. I tried everything from thick curtains to ear plugs but could not get a restful sleep no matter what. I swore I would never do this to myself.

Then I ended up taking a part-time night shift work recently and while I'm still a full-time student, I make sure I work only when I don't have classes the following morning. I soon realized that when I go to sleep at 9 am after coming home from work, I sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed.

Figure out what schedule works for you and it'll be fine.


Specializes in Emergency.

melatonin! its a lifesaver for me.

JB2007, ASN, RN

Has 5 years experience. Specializes in LTC, Med-SURG,STICU.

I love working nights. I actually sleep much better during the day then I ever did at night. I usually get up around 3 or 330 when my children get home. I see just as much if not more of my children working night as I did working days. BTW I stay up all night most nights unless I have something really important that must be done through the day. I feel terrible if I have to be up during the day.


Has 1 years experience. Specializes in Telemetry.

I have discovered that I like working nights. When I first started, I would stay up every night. Now it seems I just naturally sleep nights on my days off. I always take a nap for at least 2 or 3 hours on the day before my first night. I was scared to start nights, not sure how things would end up. But it's been a great experience for me, and I hope you have the same.

I still make time for my family, I still have time for exercise and socialization. I find life is easier if I sleep right away in the mornings when I'm doing two or more shifts in a row. My commute is such that I don't have much time for anything except sleeping and eating and driving to work when I do two or more in a row.

Good luck :)


Has 8 years experience. Specializes in GERIATRICS,HOSPICE,MENTAL/PHYS DISABILED.

When I work nights (11p-7a, 5 days a week) I go work out @ the gym after seeing my kids off to school in the morning-from 8:30AM-10:30AM, then I go home & sleep till 4:30PM (If there's no errands I have to do). I then get up, interact with my hubby, kids, help with homework, etc. I get another nap in about 8:30pm-10:00pm, then it's off to work. I don't usually work weekends so that's my cooking time. During the week, the hubby cooks or my children cook for themselves. My children are 7, 12, & 16 & are pretty self-sufficient. They can cook their own meals, wash their own clothes, & clean up after themselves (Yes, Mommy taught them well). If there is a homework issue & Mommy or Daddy is busy, they all get together & get it figured out (The internet is a wonderful thing). :lol2::yeah::)


Specializes in Med Surg.

I am not at work and it's 4:21 AM. How does it sound like I'm doing?


By using the site you agree to our Privacy, Cookies, and Terms of Service Policies.