Well I did it, first string of night shifts under my belt


So I worked 3 nights in a row, to get them out of the way, and I have to say that I did survive, and that my worrying was really not that necessary. It wasn't too bad. First night was the worst, of course, the 2nd night I thought "I can NOT do this" and by the third night I was fine. I am looking forward to my 4 days off in a row, and I hope I don't have a hard time readjusting to days. I got home from work this morning and slept for only 3 hours and then I forced myself to get up, so hopefully tonight I will sleep long and hard.

My sleep during the days that I worked was not good, I would sleep for 3 hours, wake up to go to the bathroom, then sleep on and off for the remaining 3-4 hours, but I never felt "well rested" or that I ever hit that sleep cycle of deep sleep.

Any advice for a newbie? I have blackout shades, ear plugs, a sound machine and eye shades, but do you EVER attain that deep sleep cycle again?




158 Posts

Specializes in Mother/Baby;L/D. Has 8 years experience.

you just have to train your body..which you will. I used to work nights, i never liked it,but i forced myself to sleep when i had to..especially for 2 or 3 in a row shifts. It was never really an issue for me bc i always was so tired coming home. The night shift honestly, just isnt natural for our bodies. I never felt well rested until i got 2 days of solid sleep (in a row) on my days off (meaning it took me two days to recover). So i was lucky to go to day shift after 1.5 years on nites..but for most people they love it! good luck.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

Train the body as said.

Eat and drink everything that is good for you, cause if ever there was a time to treat your body like a temple THIS IS IT. Put little to nothing in your mouth that is not beneficial and truly nutritious. There is a strong urge/craving on nights to eat lots of empty carbs and drink way too much caffeine. Don't fall into this trap. Drink lots of water, eat lots of fruits and veggies as well as grains. Leave the donuts and coffee out. Really!

Work out when you can. Healthy body and sleep are enhanced by walking, aerobic exercise and weight lifting. Find a time to carve out for 30 min/day 5 days a week. Your body, whether on day or night shift, will thank you.

Make sure others respect your sleep. This means teaching your family members and friends, as well as WORK, not to call you during the day. If you can, unplug or set all phones to silent and turn on the answering machine. If a sign on the doorbell does not work and they still ring it, then disconnect it (I had to).

The idea about white noise: EXCELLENT. When I was working mostly nights, I used a box fan on medium to block out the normal noises like dogs barking, kids playing and the noise in my home to sleep. And blackout shades or curtains a MUST.

Keep the room cool. If you don't have AC (like I did not), get a room air conditioner. I always slept MUCH better in a very cool and dark room.

Eat a light meal before you lay down. I always ate a bowl of cereal or toast and some milk. NOTHING heavy or too sweet. Just light meals will do the trick so hunger does not wake you up too soon..

Take a warm shower or bath before bed. This does wonders.

Put your nightshirt/sleeping clothes in a clothes dryer right before going to bed. The warm cuddly feeling of a flannel nightshift is like opium for me, helping me to sleep. Also helpful, particularly in cool weather, a heated blanket or heating pad. Really does the trick.

Also I used lavendar sprays and potpourri----just a light mist or amount of lavendar really worked well for me.

A cautionary piece of advice: BE REALLY CAREFUL about using "sleep aids", esp Rx ones like Ambien, etc. Seems to me, nearly 80% of the nightshifters I worked with used these things (especially prescription sleep meds) and even if not physically-addictive, can be habit-forming and mentally-addictive. I would be careful not to fall into that trap, if you can. Instead, taking good care of your body and making sure you take the time you need to sleep is the best way to go, if at all possible. Staying off meds can really pay off health-wise.

Some people love night shift. I know many who would work no other shift. It just was never for me.

Take care and enjoy your new job!


55 Posts

Just to add another perspective. I avoided ambien for my first 4 months of night shift for the reasons listed above. It was terrible. I slept about 3 hrs a night and regardless of utilizing the suggestions like listed, I could not sleep. Part of the sleep issue was the pressures of new nursing but the other is my body does not like it. I was so relieved when I started Ambien. I still don't sleep a full night's sleep about 6 hrs the nights I work but I was desperate.

I avoid dependency by only taking it during my stretch. The next night off I take 1/4 of a tablet and some chamomile tea and then do not take it until the day of my first shift back. I don't have problems transitioning back and forth (and ambien is expensive).

Just my two cents. If I had continued to avoid sleep aids, I would have quit nursing. It was terrible. Now I am still tired but not desperate during my stretch. The time in between I sleep well and without aids.


19 Posts

Specializes in heme/onc (adult), NICU. Has 5 years experience.

I found that only working 2 nights in a row was better for me because I was able to get at least one "normal" night of rest in between. That was worth more to me becaue I could use my days off and not sleep my life away! Also, I force myself to get up after about four hours of sleep on my days off, take a shower and get dressed (even if it was only in sweats) and do something in the afternoon. I try to do all my liquid consumption earlier in my shift so that I don't have to get up to go to the bathroom every few hours when I get home... Hope my tips help!


41 Posts

Specializes in ED, PACU, OB, Education.

Beer and Benadryl!

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

17 Articles; 5,259 Posts

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.

I have found that Quietly Chamomile tea by Lipton works wonders. It has chamomile, rosehips, orange, and some other stuff that I can't remember. I use that on my nights off if I need help sleeping.

My first job out of school I worked 4 nights a week Sun-Wed. I took Ambien but felt myself becoming physically dependent on it. I will not go back to that. I do everything else but will NOT take anything stronger than Benadryl.

The stuff about training your body is true. It does take time but it does happen. For me it was after I'd worked nights about 14 months in this current job. All of a sudden I started sleeping really well in the day, meaning I fall asleep at 9am & don't wake up til 4-5pm. It's amazing how much better I feel once that started happnening. Best of luck & enjoy nights!!

two words.


use it on your windows were you sleep.

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

17 Articles; 5,259 Posts

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.
two words.


use it on your windows were you sleep.

I have also heard that. Worked for Elvis.

Specializes in L & D and Mother-Baby. Has 14 years experience.

Nurse Nan....You ROCK! Sorry, but that was too funny...:lol2:

Lot's of great suggestions here...I too was feeling like I was going nuts without sleep! I find three in a row too much and usually by the morning after my third night I am in tears! I have now switched to 2 on 1 off, then 1 on. Just having that one night in between helps me feel better! Let's face it, research shows that shift work takes years off your life so you had better LOVE your job! I absolutely love the people I work with on nights. They are a true team, and our patients are really appreciative and always awestruck about "how we do it!" I would love to go to days some day but only if my entire nightshift crew goes with me!!


104 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Perinatal, Float. Has 14 years experience.

It is wonderful to hear many different suggestions to give you lots of different things to try, from finding the best schedule, and other techniques.

I have done night shift for most of my 15-years as a nurse (and some as a cna before that) and have found that I usually sleep only a total of 4 or 5 hours, and that is broken up into potty breaks (1 or 2). My co-workers do that too. I have not met many night shift nurses who fall asleep and sleep during the day for the whole stretch, they are either young or pregnant!! so I think I have just gotten used to it. That is my experience.

I have come to think of trying to get the 'typical' stretch of sleep as one would all night is an unrealistic goal for me and will only serve as a source of anxiety I don't need in my life! I think sometimes new parents go through this too, mentally thinking that they should and could get a whole nights sleep too soon after baby comes along!

Good luck finding the best way to get your needed sleep!


104 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Perinatal, Float. Has 14 years experience.

I also wanted to add to be careful as some people do get 'wired and jittery' from Benadryl instead of drowsy. I found that taking 2 does that to me and one 'may' work, but I have not found it very helpful at all. Melatonin doesn't seem to do much for me either. I haven't tried Ambien or other prescription methods but have thought it might be nice to have them on-hand.

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