The Night Shift: Tips for Staying Healthy While Working the Night Shift

By Cristina Thorson

October 13, 2021

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Staying Healthy While Working the Night Shift

Working the night shift can be quite draining, in large part because it goes against the human body’s natural circadian rhythm. The circadian system regulates our body to be awake during daylight hours, so working the night shift means you’re fighting one of your body’s ingrained systems. In order to provide the best care as a nurse, you first need to prioritize taking care of yourself. Read on for some tips that will allow you to work the night shift and stay healthy.

Set a sleep schedule

If you haven’t started your night shifts, get a head start by sleeping during the day. You can also train yourself to incorporate quick naps at convenient times.

Consume caffeine in moderation

Caffeine can be a lifesaver, especially during the night shift. Many depend on it to get their minds and bodies moving during work hours. However, try not to drink too much, because you don’t want to crash during work. You also want to be able to fall asleep when you get home.  

Eat healthy foods

Getting through the night shift will be harder if you have to deal with the ups and downs of blood sugar. Lack of sleep can throw off your body’s cravings. It can be difficult to reach for something that will give your body fuel, especially when you’re tired. Meal prepping is a great way to eat nutritious, inexpensive food without having to cook every night.

Stay hydrated

Keeping your body properly hydrated regulates your digestive system and helps you stay energized. Try to drink a bottle of water before you begin your shift, so you can get a head start on hydration. 

Exercise regularly

It might feel draining to motivate yourself, but exercise will give you more energy in the long term. Try something small and simple—it doesn’t have to be hardcore weightlifting. Just make sure you’re properly fueling your workouts and getting enough sleep to feel good! 

Schedule night shifts close together

It can be hard to get used to the odd hours, so try to schedule them back-to-back. It’ll give you an opportunity to take advantage of your time off.

Create a routine

Routines will help you plan your days off, so you can maximize your free time. A routine can also help you regulate your sleep schedule. As a travel nurse, it can be hard to set a routine. However, trying to do something as simple as brushing your teeth at the same time every day can help your body feel soothed and ready to relax.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it actually decreases the quality of your sleep and makes you feel less energized when you wake up. To avoid brain fog, try to avoid alcohol 24 hours before your next shift.

Use free time wisely

If you have free time to do something fun, you should do it! Just try to stay consistent with the sleep schedule and routines you’ve created for yourself. 

Keep your household in the loop

Allowing your household access to your schedule will enable them to respect your resting hours and make plans with you when you’re free. It can be difficult to coordinate, so try sharing a calendar (whether it’s virtual or hanging on the wall) to make it a little easier for them to see what you’re up to. 

Take nap breaks

If you have breaks and are tired enough, use them for naps. Naps are a great way to rejuvenate your energy levels. The best time to nap is around 20-30 minutes. 

Prioritize self-care

Self-care is so important, and many of the items on this list can actually work as self-care. When it comes down to it, self-care is about checking in with yourself and making sure your mental health is at its best.  

Design a sleep-friendly bedroom

It helps to adjust your sleeping environment so that it simulates nighttime, so if that means getting blackout curtains, go for it. Try to avoid loud noises or distractions.

Limit blue light

Limiting blue light before bed is one of the ways to make your bedroom more sleep-friendly. Try to get off your phone right before you go to sleep. If you have time to unwind and watch TV, try to do it a couple of hours before you go to bed. 

Nurses are essential workers, and we’ve recognized that more than ever in the past year. Because nurses are so important, it’s often a necessity for nurses to work the night shift. Do your best to prioritize your physical and mental health—if you need to take some time off, do it! Above all, you want to stay healthy so you can take on your shifts safely and successfully.

We hope you found these tips for staying healthy while working the night shift helpful. If you have any tips for working the night shift and staying healthy, comment them below.

Below you will find an infographic with some more information.

the night shift

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