At HCA, we know how important it is to keep healthy, especially if you’re a nurse, doctor, support worker or any healthcare professional caring for other people. Looking after yourself can be a challenge, especially when you work at night. To help you prepare and recover from the sleepless night shift, we have provided 10 helpful tips below.
1. Establish a better sleeping pattern
When working the night shift getting a good sleep before the shift is just as important as after. When you don’t get enough sleep, you can end up less focused and irritable at work which can put your patients at risk. To overcome this try to establish a regular sleep/wake cycle by building your schedule on the time you wake up and sleep, instead of adjusting your sleeping hours to work around your lifestyle.
It’s very important to keep hydrated during the shift to avoid fatigue and headaches. Many nurses stop drinking water after 4 am because when you try to sleep during the day you will be getting up to go to the bathroom, thus interrupting your sleep.
3. Be careful with caffeinated drinks
It’s fine to have a cup of coffee or tea to keep you alert during your shift but avoid drinking caffeinated drinks after 4 am so that you’re not able to fall asleep.
4. Eat well
Have dinner before your shift, so you don’t starve halfway through. Try and take some healthy snacks with you, such as raw salads, nuts, fruit, and vegetables to keep your energy up.
‘One of our nurses Terrie suggests having a smoothie after your shift. Terrie likes to combine spinach, strawberry, lime, and banana into her Nutribullet to get the vitamins she needs. She also suggests taking multi-vitamins to complement this.’
- 5. Comfort First
If you wear contact lenses, it’s a good idea to wear your glasses during the night shift as your eyes are more likely to be tired and sore during the night. Make sure to always wear your most comfortable shoes, no matter how ugly they are! Some night shifts can be quiet and others can be quite chaotic, so comfort is important when running around.
- 6. Exercise or stretch to stay alert
Staying active during breaks is an effective way to reboot energy levels, and may include taking a walk to the cafeteria, climbing a set of stairs, dancing to a song on the radio in the break room, or just stretching to keep your body active and re-energised.
- 7. Take public transport
To combat fatigue, many drivers will let down car windows or turn up the volume on the radio ‚ an alarming signal that fatigue can greatly affect the safety of a driver. Fatigue is one of the biggest killers on our roads, so take public transport if possible and get home safely.
- 8. Unwind after your shift
If you tend to think a lot about the things that just happened in your shift and can’t sleep, why not talk to someone about it? Have a de-brief with a friend or family member, they should be up anyways as it’s daytime!
- 9. Monitor Your Health
Working the night shift can have a detrimental effect on a nurse both physically and mentally if they do not effectively monitor their health. Working at night may put you at risk of insomnia, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, diabetes, menstrual irregularities, colds, and weight gain.
So, eat well, hydrate yourself, exercise and see the doctor if you feel something isn’t right.
10. Bond with Your Co-Workers
The night shift creates a completely different environment than the day shift; one that causes a nurse to become more resourceful since there is fewer managers, directors, and Physicians on duty. Bonding with co-workers not only makes the night shift easier to handle, but good communication between co-workers can also help increase the likelihood that a shift will run smoothly.
We hope these tips help you better prepare and recover from the night shift. We’re sure you probably practice some of these things already, but hope you picked up something useful tips for your next night shift.
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