Surviving while working the night shift doesn’t mean you should gulp down gallons of coffee and take zombie-like walks down the hallways. Our bodies have a natural alarm clock that tells the brain when to be active and when to lay low and rest. This schedule dictates that the brain should be active during the day and rest at night. It’s important as it also helps to regulate the heart rate, body temperature, and digestive system.
The night shift causes a disruption to the natural sleeping and rest patterns. If one is not careful to prioritize their mental and physical health, health issues might be just around the corner. Luckily, there are some healthy habits that can help nurses adjust, be productive and even enjoy late-night shifts.
- Get adequate sleep
The interruption in your sleeping pattern makes it necessary for you to schedule your sleep. Create an environment that is conducive to sleeping during the day for seven to nine hours. Eliminate distractions and disconnect everything that will disrupt you, including phones, doorbells, and other electronics. Sleeping is a priority and working at night requires you to teach your body to sleep properly during the day.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, nurses can suffer from shift work disorder, which can affect their work performance, their mood at work, substance abuse, low testosterone, and even cause health problems.
- Group your night shifts together
Clustering your night shifts together ensures better planning of your schedule even on off days. It makes it easier for your body to get used to a set schedule and not consistently stay in adaption mode. It might be a bit harder to return to a normal daytime schedule after a week of night shifts but it’s a more practical way to ensure you remain healthy. After the last day of your night shift, sleep in the morning, wake up early in the afternoon, and don’t sleep again until your normal bedtime.
- Create a routine
Use a time management strategy that will ensure every aspect of your life is scheduled. Do your best to have consistent sleep and wake-up times. You should also keep in mind all the other special activities that need your attention during the daytime hours. If you want to further your education, consider an online DNP program, such as the one available at Wilkes University, as it gives you the freedom of flexible coursework. Plan the best time for self-care activities, studies, and even household duties.
- Exercise regularly
When working 12-hour shifts, it might be hard to consider incorporating exercise into your routine, but exercising consistently is the key to staying fit and keeping your energy up. It doesn’t always have to be a full-body workout, low-impact activities are also great. You can also plan to go to the gym on your off days. The CDC recommends at least an hour of exercise a day, so try to keep it up.
- Eat nutritious foods and drink water
You need to eat right when working the night shift. Carry meals and snacks that are healthy as this can affect your performance at work, energy, and stamina. Snack on fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Pack a balanced diet and whole grain meals. Don’t forget to properly hydrate throughout your shift.