How Nurses Can Stay Healthy During Night Shifts – 4 Expert Tips
Night shifts can result in tiredness, sleep disruption, and sometimes, frustration. Nurses who work these shifts often eat irregularly, snack un-healthy, skip meals, and find it tough to keep up with regular exercise. If your idea of surviving night shifts includes loads of coffee, zombie-walking, and a smoke or two, then these four tips from experts can come in handy. Do note that getting accustomed to night shifts requires a nurse to make adjustments in his/her personal and professional life.
Tip 1: Get Enough Sleep
Working at night interrupts your natural sleep cycle. Nurses should take necessary measures that will help them get an excellent conducive sleep. Use curtains that darken the room and disconnect sleep disruptive devices such as phones, doorbells, and electronics. Shift nurses must acclimatize their bodies to fall asleep and remain asleep for a longer time without any interruption. Eliminate noise and light while you sleep by using eye masks and earplugs. National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests to keep the same bedtime and wake schedule even on weekends; in addition, avoid consuming caffeinated beverages/foods and alcohol close to bedtime.
Tip 2: Snack-up Healthy
Stamina, energy, and performance levels primarily depend on the food choices we make. Similarly, meals and snacks a nurse chooses before and during the night shift will have a significant impact on his/her health. It’s essential to identify whether the food you prepare for your shift provides energy or makes you drowsy. Nurses should consume frequent but smaller meals that include nuts, fruits, salads, and veggies. The meal should be well rounded and balanced with all the macro nutrients such as complex carbs and protein. These are some of the points to take care of:
- Avoid eating large amounts of refined sugar
- Instead of sugar, go for dried fruits that provide a sweet boost of energy
- Go for gluten-free bread instead of the regular ones
- Drink ample water throughout the shift. Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue.
Tip 3: Connect with Your Co-Workers!
The night shift is an entirely different setting than the day shift which means the mood and the environment is completely different. To run the shift smoothly, nurses must bond with their co-workers. Bonding with co-workers makes the night shift easier to handle as nurses usually tend to rely on each other for several activities. Your co-workers must become your friends during the arduous night shift.
- Try to know your co-workers professionally and socially
- Take your coffee or tea breaks with them
- Try to have dinner together
- Invite them for family get-togethers
Tip 4: Exercise Regularly to Stay Alert
When the feeling of fatigue starts to take over, combat it with a bit of exercise. Shift nurses usually experience more fatigue and drowsiness around 4:00 a.m. They should avoid doing any monotonous task during that time and should avoid any heavy meals around this time. Exercising may not be possible for nurses who work 12-hour shifts, but if full-body workout is not an option, take a brisk walk. Here are some of the things that you can try.
- Try using the stairs instead of the lift
- Do light stretching
- Plan light workout sessions early morning or evenings (before your shift starts)
- Try using public transport every once in a while
Make sure that you incorporate discipline in your daily routine and eat a healthy diet. Being consistent with these rules will not only help you maintain your energy levels but it will also keep you focussed.
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