7 Tips to Help You Thrive When You Work Unsocial Hours

Registered nurse jobs and shift work go hand in hand. And with shift work a common problem is sleep disorder, especially when working the night shift.

If you suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy (where you are uncontrollably sleepy during the day), it’s likely that you’re not coping well with your night shifts. If you don’t learn to cope better, you could find that you become irritable, have difficulty concentrating, and are on a constant emotional roller coaster. That’s going to affect your work and career prospects.

These tips will help you cope with the night shift as a registered nurse, and make sure that your life stays on an even keel.

Why Does the Night Shift Make You Sleepy?

There are many excuses made for poor sleep when you work the night shift. These might include bright sunlight or noisy neighbors. The truth is that working night shifts plays with your natural body clock. The circadian rhythm tells your body to sleep at night and be awake during the day. It’s a routine that is embedded in us as humans.

How to Thrive on the Night Shift

Many registered nurses seek to survive on the night shift, and thrive when they are working more sociable hours. With the right approach, you can get your essential sleep when you need it and thrive no matter which shift you are working. Here are our seven top tips to help you thrive when you’re working nights.

1. Cut Down on the Caffeine

A cup of coffee shortly before your shift starts can help you be alert, but consuming too much caffeine through your shift or late into your shift can stop you getting to sleep when you need to at home.

2. Eat Little and Often

Don’t eat a big meal right before you leave your home to work the night shift. Instead, take a few healthy snacks to work and eat little and often – fruit and slow-release carbs are great to keep you going.

3. Take Short Naps

If it’s possible, take a 20- to 30-minute nap before you start work and then another during your break. These short naps act like a fast battery recharge and help you maintain your energy throughout your shift.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration is a major contributor to fatigue, so it’s crucial that you drink plenty of water during your shift.

5. Stay Busy

Night shifts are often slower. You start clock watching, and this makes you feel tired. There is always something to do, and doing it will help the time pass quicker. You’ll feel less groggy and be better prepared to sleep at home.

6. Prepare for Bed on Your Commute

When you have finished your shift, make it feel like the day is ending. Wear sunglasses to shade you from bright sunlight. Avoid the temptation to run errands on the way home. Keep your commute as short as possible.

7. Fool Your Body into Thinking Day Is Night

This may be the most difficult of all our tips to put into action. If you’re successful, the night shift will become much easier and have much less effect on you. There are various tactics you can use to help fool your body into thinking that it’s night, including:

  • Stick to a regular sleep pattern
  • Block out sunlight with thick drapes or blinds
  • Ask your family to be extra quiet
  • Eat your ‘evening meal’ in the morning

What If You Still Can’t Make the Night Shift Work for You?

If after putting all the above tips into action you still can’t thrive on the night shift, it may be time to consider doing the job you love differently. Here at QS Nurses we work with healthcare facilities to provide nursing cover when it is most needed. With QS you enjoy a higher income and flexible schedule, control over your career, and you’ll benefit from unrivalled support.