I am just about to finish my externship on the ICU unit. This summer I did night shift so that I could see how I adjusted. I have always been very rigid about my sleep schedule so I was shocked at how well I adjusted.
That being said it was not easy for me to work night shift. However, I am grateful for the experience so that I know what is coming when I graduate. I am currently back on days in the ICU because I am back in school. There is a difference between days and nights. Just like days there are going to be nights where you don't slow down. (i.e. - admit after admit, short staffed, multiple intubations, etc.) Overall though I felt that more often than not there was more "down time" on the night shift. ICU nurses work hard to let their patients rest so they do not get delirium. If someone is being bothered all night it is usually because they are sedated or have q1h BS checks.
I asked multiple nurses how they got their schedule back on track during the week and there were mixed reviews. I am able to set my schedule so I was able to do all 3 nights in a row which made it easier. I would work at night then come home and hit my pillow right away. Say 745-8? Then I would sleep until 4-5:30 depending on how long I can sleep. Saturday night was my last night so I try to set something up on Sunday that I HAVE to wake up for. For me usually around 12 or 1. You pretty much have to deprive yourself of sleep at some point in the week in order to get to bed at a decent time. For some 6 hours is not deprivation, but for me it is! :)
Other nurses I knew would just go home, stay up and then take a nap in the afternoon (2-3 hrs) and then go to bed at a good time. There is no way I could stay up that long. I think it would be easier for me to get up on that last shift if I had children to get up and take care of.
Also, the day before a night shift I found 2 options worked for me. 1.) Stay up late (1-2am) and sleep until (10-11). I don't have to take a nap and can get through my night shift fine. 2.) Go to bed and get up early so that I can take a nap a few hours before I have to go in to work. A few nurses I knew had children would stay up for 24 hours straight. NO NAP! Craziness to me....