Night shift is a physical and mental strain that many nurses do not have expert knowledge to manage it. Current times of acuity and complexity means in many cases more workload and a fair number of patients require interventions through the night. This entry will cover what you, as an individual, can manage to optimize your shiftwork reality. Being mindful about what you need will optimize your experience as a shiftworker.
The principles for sleep are essential to a shiftworker here are some survival points
- Know what your natural circadian pattern is for you; are you an early riser–shiftwork may be more challenging for you, ensure you have a nap before first night shift. Studies show individuals who are awake more than 17 hours can be impaired equivalent to having a bloodstream alcohol level of 0.05
- Wear sunglasses on the way home to minimize light on eyes
- Invest in a mattress that is comfortable and supportive
- Leave your smartphone and tablet away from the bed, blue light plays havoc with your brain by disrupting your ability to get to sleep. No TV including live streaming and most assuredly news or day time programming
- Keep bedtime routine the same for days as for nights
- Keep bedroom cool, use curtains or blinds that darken the room
- Use eye mask, ear plugs to protect your sleep time
- Educate family, spouse, friends that day time sleep you’re not to be disturbed though criteria can be defined i.e. fire, flood, hurricane etc.
- Aim for 7 hours of sleep during the day and post nights wake up 90 minutes after sleeping to reorient back to days
- Caffeine needs to be minimal and most assuredly after 0200 h no intake due to effect of disrupting sleep
- Be prepared take food to work, so those chicken wings from the local diner don’t end up on your hips. Eat complex carbs quinoa, brown rice, pasta.
- Proteins use chicken, tuna, turkey, beans, soy and round out with vegetables, seeds, dried fruit, healthy oils i.e. olive, avocado, sunflower, a good non-cooking oil flaxseed, walnut etc.
- Eat a hearty breakfast, have snack foods to pack so your blood sugar will be balanced i.e. trail mix, vegetables, fruit, apples and peanut butter
- Drink about 750 ml of water during your shift to keep hydrated and you will be less fatigued
- Eat with someone; social interaction is helpful for coping with nights
Thrive on Nights
- Exercise on break instead of sleep to minimize fatigue, if you do nap limit to 20 minutes to minimize entering deeper stage of sleep cycle
- Take activities to keep you awake, knitting, puzzle games, reading material, listen to music
- Use practices like meditation to relax yourself for sleep both day and night shift
- Keep a bright light on in the station to perk you up, light is the stimulation you need to stay awake
- Discuss with your doctor or naturopath the benefits of Melatonin (hormone) and how it helps shift workers
- Make sure you have social activities with family, friends, and time for yourself. Going to sleep may be the goal but you need human contact too.
Shift Work Disorder
You can experience negative health impacts and if you answer any below as yes; you will need to follow up with your doctor and/or occupational health and safety
- I feel drowsy when I’m at work, or in my “off time” during family or social engagements.
- I have fallen asleep at work.
- I’m not productive at work. I often can’t think quickly or make good decisions while I’m on the job.
- I have trouble falling asleep when it’s time to sleep (when my shift ends, or when I am “supposed” to sleep).
- I wake up too soon. I cannot sleep seven to nine hours continuously.
- My sleep is “broken” and I wake up frequently during the time I should be sleeping.
- I feel irritable or moody.
- My shift work schedule has created trouble in my personal life (with my partner, family, or friends).
Registered Nurse Storyteller, Healer, Scribe, Transformational Leader