Getting quality sleep on a regular basis is essential for maintaining good health. That being said, travel nurses and nurses, in general, can struggle with getting adequate amounts of sleep at night. Between the long hours, night shifts, time zone changes, achieving a restful night of sleep can seem impossible at times. The good news is that there are things you can do to begin improving your sleep quality. The first step to doing this is to make sure that you understand what impacts your ability to fall asleep at night. If you want to get the rest that you and your body need to truly feel regenerated, then here are some things to consider.
Your Diet and Nutrient Intake
One of the first things you need to think about when you are working to improve your overall sleep quality is what you eat on a daily basis. The foods you eat can impact how much energy you have throughout the day and your overall hormonal balance. These things, in turn, can then impact how easy it is for you to fall asleep. When you eat foods that tend to be high in sugar and carbs, your blood sugar will be more likely to spike and crash. This means that your energy levels will also be spiking and crashing. Ultimately, this can cause you to feel tired all day long and then full of energy at night.
In addition to paying attention to your blood sugar and how foods impact that, you also need to consider the nutrient density of the foods that you eat and whether or not you might be deficient in some nutrients. Doing things like taking a vitamin d test can help clue you into what nutrients you need more of in your diet. Different deficiencies can hurt sleep in different ways. For example, those with a vitamin B12 deficiency might find that their sleep patterns are disrupted, while those with a vitamin D deficiency might notice that their sleep duration is shorter overall.
Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
The amounts of caffeine and alcohol that you drink can also significantly impact your ability to fall asleep at night. Caffeine can keep you up due to the fact that it is a nervous system stimulant. A nervous system stimulant can be great for getting you up and going early in the morning. However, all of this energy can be detrimental too late in the day. Because caffeine can keep you energized for up to several hours after consuming it, it is important to make sure that you avoid drinking caffeinated beverages too late in the evening.
Along with caffeine, alcohol is another beverage that can significantly impact your sleep quality. Even though some may not think that alcohol impacts their sleep much because they are able to fall asleep easily after drinking, the reality is that it can still be hurting sleep quality. While alcohol may not prevent you from falling asleep, the reality is that it can disrupt sleep cycles and lead to short and fragmented sleep. Because of this, you may find yourself waking up frequently throughout the night and feeling exhausted when you do finally get up for the day. To avoid this, it can be a good idea to limit the number of drinks that you consume or to avoid drinking too frequently.
Your Daily Activity Level
Your daily activity level is something else that can have a noticeable impact on the amount and quality of sleep that you are able to get. Typically, the more active that you are throughout the day, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep at night. This is due in part to the fact that being physically active can wear you out and cause you to feel more tired when it is time for bed. The other reason that it can be beneficial is that physical activity can help to balance out your hormones and can even affect many hormones that are related to sleep quality and duration.
Something else to keep in mind is that it often doesn’t matter what kind of exercise or movement you are doing throughout the day. As long as you can make sure that you are working out for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, you can see benefits when it comes to your sleep quality.
Your Sleeping Environment
Where you sleep is another factor that can have a lot to do with whether or not you are sleeping well at night. If you have a bedroom that is full of light, heat, and noise, you may find it difficult to fall asleep easily or stay asleep throughout the night. While you may not always be able to change all of these things, doing what you can to create a dark, cool and quiet sleeping environment can be important for getting good sleep.
One way to help cool your bedroom down is by using a fan at night, which can also be great for white noise. Additionally, turning your thermostat down by a few extra degrees before bed can be another way to accomplish this. To help reduce noise, using noise-canceling panels on your door or earplugs can be helpful. If you want to make sure that your room is dark enough, then using a sleep mask or trying room-darkening blinds can be a good idea.
Your Stress Levels
Your stress levels are another thing that can impact your ability to sleep well in a big way. The more stressed that you are, the more stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol you will have coursing through your system. These hormones can cause you to feel wired and can lead to you staying up, even if you are feeling very tired. While it may not be possible to avoid stress in your life altogether, the good news is that there are things you can do to help reduce it.
One way to help cut down on stress is to try out mindfulness, or meditation. Meditation can not only help you to clear your mind, but it can also help to calm your nervous system as well. Often, aiming for 15 to 20 minutes of meditation is ideal if you want to see results.
Quality sleep is essential for travel nurses because they have very demanding jobs that require their full energy for extended periods of time. Many don’t get as much rest as they truly need. While it might not always be easy to get enough sleep, the upside is that by being aware of all the factors that can affect your rest, you can help make the right decisions to get better sleep.
We hope this article on ways to improve sleep as a travel nurse was helpful. Have you found any ways to improve sleep as a travel nurse? Comment ways you think will help other travel nurses improve sleep.