How to Survive the Night Shift as a Nurse: 6 Tips for Success

Green alarm clock at night reading 10:10

As a nurse, you’ll work many different kinds of shifts. Many other professions have a typical eight-hour workday, however, in healthcare, there are varying shift lengths and times of the day that they are worked, including the night shift. Working the night shift can present its own challenges, as it requires healthcare professionals to make adjustments to their daily routines to be able to conquer the shift. How do you survive the night shift as a nurse?

Although it’s not for everyone, for some the night shift is the preferred shift to work while it can be a challenge for others. Here are six helpful tips on how to survive the night shift as a nurse so you can stay focused and organized.

Create a New Sleep Routine

Working the night shift goes against your body’s natural sleep pattern, so you’ll need to retrain your schedule accordingly. This will involve sleeping during the day to gear up for being awake while the rest of the world is asleep. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before your shift is essential. Make sure you’re getting a solid six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to help you function and feel your best during your shift.

Sleeping in a dark room will help accomplish being able to fall asleep during the day. To try to mimic the nighttime, blackout curtains or shades are great ways to block out the day’s sunlight, or even wearing an eye mask can help as well. Avoid blue light, especially before bed, which means try to avoid being on your phone or watching TV a few hours before going to sleep. To block out the hustle and bustle of the day, you can either use a white noise machine or earplugs to drown out any noise.

Pack Healthy Snacks

Snacking during your shift can help you stay energized throughout the long night. When you’re low on energy, it can be tempting to crave a type of “comfort food” to fulfill a craving. Avoid quick snacks that are high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats, which can lead to an energy crash later.

Having frequent quick and healthy snacks throughout your shift like nuts, dried fruits, cheese sticks, yogurt, or granola can be eaten quickly are full of nutrients and can give you an even boost of energy. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated!

Be Smart with Caffeine

Drinking caffeine is a go-to for boosting your energy. While it can help improve your alertness throughout your shift, be mindful of when and how much you are drinking. Aim to drink caffeine at the start of your night shift, so that it can work throughout the night. Avoid drinking as much caffeine in the latter half of your night shift, so as not to disturb your ability to fall asleep when you go home.

Similar to eating healthy snacks, try to avoid energy drinks and stick with coffee or a low-sugar caffeine drink. These energy drinks can be loaded with high amounts of sugar that can leave you feeling jittery then groggy and uncomfortable later on.

Stay Active

Staying active and moving can help keep the body naturally energized and get your heart rate up if you’re feeling sleepy. During your shift, stay moving by taking a quick walk outside or to the break room or cafeteria, or try doing some wall sits or lunges for quick ways to keep moving while on the job.

Getting active and exercising has a multitude of positive effects on the body. The release of endorphins can help provide a better night’s sleep. It’s also important to try to maintain an exercise routine outside of work as well. This will help you feel in shape and maintain a sense of routine outside of work hours.

Enjoy Your Days Off

While your new routine may be different from friends and family, it’s important to make time to socialize with loved ones. Your social life has a great impact on your emotional well-being which can have an effect on your mental and physical health. Feeling socially isolated can lead to feelings of burnout and fatigue.

As a nurse, you put the needs of others before your own and it’s important to take the steps necessary to make sure you’re feeling your best, so you can be your best. Keeping yourself healthy and in good shape will help you give better care to your patients. Adapting to the night shift can be a challenge, but with some preparation and developing a new routine, you’re sure to conquer it.

Explore Your Next Nursing Shift with CareerStaff

We’re proud to be the preferred source of great job opportunities for so many of the nation’s hard-working nursing professionals. If you’re interested in helping hospitals and facilities where nurses are most needed, we’re hiring in locations across the country! Our list of current nursing jobs is updated every hour of every day — and we’ve had more opportunities than ever before.

At CareerStaff, we can connect you with a facility that’s in need of a skilled professional like you. See our available opportunities here.