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Tools for Surviving Night Shift
Most nurses are creatures of habit. We develop routines before going to work, have routines while at work, and have routines when we get home. How many can relate to this?? This week was my first week back on the job. I’m a night shift nurse by heart. I like the pace, people, and pay.
I reluctantly started night shift on my first travel assignment in 2006. It was not by choice, but after a week of nausea and confusion, I was hooked! There isn’t the constant buzz and whir that one experiences on day shift in a hospital. Nights are great for those of us who become easily distracted, as long as you can stay awake.
Working nights is no joke when it comes to the effects it has on the body. More and more research is finding a connection between shift work and increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and insomnia. That’s why it’s so important to try to make sleeping well, eating well, and exercising a part of life. Don’t get me wrong, I eat chips and drink soda sometimes, but it’s all about balance. I try (keyword try) to limit the junk to one day a week.
I thought I’d share some of my routines for surviving night shift. It’s a process that is years in the making, thus time tested.
I usually have one or two cups of tea before work. It gives a little pick me up and has the added advantage of antioxidants. I might have a cup of tea on my first break at work too as well, but I have a rule of no caffeine too late for fear of interfering with my sleep. I also pre hydrate with water before work in case it’s so crazy busy I don’t have time initially to drink. Every chance I get, I drink a glass of water.
It’s so essential to sleep and sleep well. Whatever it takes. I know that my bedroom has to be as dark as possible and cool. If the temperature is off even by a degree or two I can sense it. I use an eye pillow filled with flax seed and lavender (highly recommend). Eye pillows block all light, can relieve headaches and eye tension, and allow for a deep state of relaxation. The weight of the flax seed in the eye pillow is said to add needed acupressure points around the eyes. The added benefit of lavender has a further calming effect.
I eat healthiest actually on the nights I work. I know my body needs the best fuel possible to stay alert. I eat dinner at home before going in. Baked salmon with a garlic yogurt sauce is my favorite. Both are high in protein and hold me almost the entire night. I bring fruit, nuts, and sometimes yogurt as well to snack on all night. The nuts and yogurt give the energy I need and hold me for a while, plus it is easy to eat quickly if needed.
I practice yoga nearly every day, sometimes it is only fifteen minutes with my legs up the wall with my eye pillow and deep breaths, sometimes it is a full invigorating practice that challenges my strength and endurance. It depends on how I am feeling that particular day.
As we all know, this is usually not a problem. We are often faced with an admission or a decline in our patient’s status when we are most tired (right around 5 am). I usually have a routine of cleaning everything around my patient early in the shift. As I get more tired, if I have nothing patient related to do, I clean and stock.
What are your routines??? Would love to hear!!