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Working the night shift comes with its challenges; one of the biggest is simply staying alert. These five tips can help keep you energized and ready for action, whether you’re a traveling nurse, staff nurse or working with a private practice with patients who need round-the-clock care.
Skip the Caffeine
A cup or two of coffee may be OK at the onset of your nighttime nursing shift, but relying on it as a continuous pick-me-up throughout your shift can backfire. Too much caffeine can make you jittery, irritable and even lead to insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation, MayoClinic.com reports. Anything more than four, 8-ounce cups of coffee every 24 hours is too much. Timing also counts, as caffeine right before sleep is a surefire way to stay wide awake.
Get 8 Hours of Sleep
As a nurse, you need a full night’s rest each and every day. However, working the night shift means you’re going to be sleeping during the day, which can be a challenging adjustment. When you do arrive home, you might not be able to fall asleep right away, as your body needs time to unwind. But once you do start to feel drowsy, make drifting off to sleep easier in a dark and quiet environment. Invest in a sleep mask, earplugs or light-blocking drapes if necessary.
Rely on Routine
Following the same routine every day can help your body establish and maintain its sleep cycle, along with an expected rhythm for other activities. This applies on days you’re working the night shift as well as on your days off.
It may be tempting to try and follow a daytime routine when you’re off from work, but it also serves to disrupt the rhythm your body has been striving to establish. That means you may once again end up fatigued and out of sync when it’s time to go back to work.
A regular exercise routine can have a huge impact on your energy levels, helping to keep you awake, alert and in a positive frame of mind. If possible, take short, brisk walks during your shift to energize yourself and get your blood pumping.
The Mayo Clinic notes that regular physical activity increases endurance, muscle strength and the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. It also helps deliver higher amounts of oxygen and nutrients to each part of your body. Just make sure you exercise at least four hours before your bedtime, U.S. News & World Report says, or it can end up keeping you awake.
Engaging in healthy eating habits can be a tough task while working the night shift, with vending machines and fast food often the only thing at the ready. Don’t fall prey. While high-carb foods can give you a quick burst of energy, they are followed by an equally dramatic slump. Stick with a well-balanced diet to keep energy levels constant, bringing your own food if you must.
Working the night shift may still be a challenge, but these tips help ensure it's one you can meet well-rested, well-fed and brimming with energy.
Night shift nurses, how do YOU get through the night full of energy? Share your tips with your fellow night owls in the comments section below!