RTG Medical provided this article.
Working the night shift can disrupt your daily routine, even when you’re not traveling. Typically lasting between 8 to 12 hours, night shifts can be daunting for first-time night shift travel nurses. However, there are steps you can take to thrive during those long night shifts.
Tips for working a night shift travel assignment:
Stick to a Schedule
To ensure a smooth transition to your first night shift as a medical traveler, you must mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare yourself. Preparation should begin well before the day of your assignment. Planning ahead is crucial to give your mind and body ample time to adjust to your new schedule. To reset your circadian rhythm, gradually alter your sleeping patterns in the weeks leading up to your travel assignment.
If you struggle to maintain a sleep schedule during daylight hours, there are a few items you can invest in to help ensure a peaceful slumber. Since sunlight exposure signals the brain to stay awake, consider purchasing blackout curtains or a sleeping mask to help remove distractions. Additionally, try using white noise apps to drown out any background noise that could interrupt your rest. To further improve your sleep quality during the day, you may want to try incorporating some of these tips:
- Establish a pre-sleep routine: Just like with nighttime sleep, establishing a routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to rest. Consider taking a warm bath or reading a book to wind down before sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool: A cooler room temperature can promote better sleep, so try keeping your bedroom between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Practice relaxation techniques: If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious before sleep, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help calm your mind and body.
Working the night shift makes it even more crucial to prioritize sleep. Your success in this role is dependent on maintaining a steady sleep schedule. Irregular sleep patterns can weaken your immune system, impair your memory, and impact your ability to focus.
Maintain a Consistent Meal Schedule
Changing your sleep and eating routines can be quite challenging, particularly because your body has a natural rhythm for hunger, just like it does for sleep. Despite this, it’s vital to prioritize proper nutrition when working night shifts. Preparing healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks can help sustain your energy levels and promote good health.
To stay energized during your night shift, consume a well-rounded diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These superfoods will provide the necessary fuel to get you through the night. Avoid giving in to the temptation of vending machine snacks, which are often high in sugar and processed. Although these snacks may provide an initial energy boost, they will inevitably lead to a crash. In addition to a well-rounded diet, you can follow several other tips to stay energized during your night shift. Here are a few:
- Take breaks: Giving yourself time to rest and recharge during your shift is essential.
- Avoid caffeine late in the shift: While caffeine can provide a quick burst of energy, it can also interfere with your ability to sleep once your shift is over. If you need a pick-me-up later in the shift, try drinking water or eating a piece of fruit instead.
Prioritize Self Care
For medical travelers, especially those working night shifts, self-care is crucial when adjusting to a new schedule. Taking care of your mental health should be a top priority. As you settle into your new routines, make sure to set aside time for yourself and enjoy your days off. When beginning your night shift travel assignment, remember to prioritize self-care.
While caffeine is a beloved pick-me-up, moderation is essential. Consider drinking water to enhance focus and energy without experiencing a caffeine crash. Furthermore, water is vital for brain function and overall health. The amount of water you should drink depends on factors such as your diet and exercise routine. However, adults should drink between 9 and 13 cups of water daily.
It’s natural to experience downtime while working the night shift, but keep it from leading to inactivity. With a little creativity, you can exercise during your shift. Consider walking around the unit, using stairways, or doing some light cleaning to keep your body moving and combat fatigue.
Although it might feel daunting, don’t shy away from night shift travel assignments. With careful planning and preparation, you can smoothly transition into your ever-changing schedule.
Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.