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Top Ten Tips for Thriving (and Surviving) Night Shift

Oct 25, 2015

Did you know that a nurse working 12-hour night shifts experiences the jet lag equivalent of flying from Indianapolis to Istanbul six to ten times every month? Night shift is not for the faint of heart! Here are ten tips to help you not only survive, but THRIVE on night shift.

10. Graze! Digestive activity is at its slowest during the overnight hours, whether you’re awake or not. So instead of a big meal during the wee hours, several frequent small grazing-type nutritious snacks are a better alternative.

9. Exercise! People who exercise regularly sleep longer, fall sleep faster and (most importantly) have better quality sleep than those who don’t. Exercise can mean as little as a couple of turns around the block. Some individuals have trouble falling asleep directly after exercise, some don’t. Figure out an exercise regimen and schedule that work for YOU.

8. Leave electronics (this includes your cell, television and e-readers) in another room while you sleep. Sleep experts agree on this strategy for day and night sleepers alike.

7. Have a routine. Do you usually shower before bed? Stretch? Read a bit? Whatever is your night sleep routine should be your day sleep routine as well. This signals your brain that it’s sleep time.

6. Have ‘the talk’. Let your family know how important it is for you to sleep during the day. As important as it is for THEM to sleep during the NIGHT.

5. Notify! A ‘Night nurse sleeping: Please do not ring bell!’ sign on the front door can be really helpful in eliminating nuisance awakenings.

4. Plan B: A trusted neighbor can intercept package deliveries and even emergency calls from your child’s school. Arranging this beforehand, and providing the neighbor a key to awaken you if needed can allow you to sleep knowing you have a workable backup plan in place.

3. White noise. A fan running in your bedroom can help block out noise that might otherwise keep you awake. Place the fan near the source of the noise- the bedroom door if it’s in-house noise, the window if it’s outdoor noise.

2. Black out! Your sleep environment should be as dark as possible. Black out curtains are a great start. A tension rod placed in the window frame vertically allows you to tuck them in and keep light from coming in around the corners.

1. Sunglasses! Sunlight falling on the retina suppresses melatonin secretion and drives wakefulness. You know how it’s easier to fall asleep after driving home on the winter morning darkness or on a rainy day? That’s because sunlight doesn’t suppress your melatonin! So- PUT ON sunglasses before walking outdoors for the drive home, LEAVE ON until you’re in bed, and put them BACK ON if you arise mid-day to visit the restroom and want to return to sleep.

We live in a 24/7 society, and our jobs reflect that. These tips can help you thrive and survive!

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