How to Work Night Shift and Stay Healthy

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So, are you working night shift and struggling to stay healthy? Well, today we’re going over some of our top ways on How to Work Night Shift and Stay Healthy while working as a nurse!

Working night shift isn’t easy. It is one of the toughest shifts to work because of it’s demanding nature on our bodies. We, as humans, aren’t meant to stay awake all-night, but someone has to do it!

While there is some good reasons to work night shift, we want you to have all of the tools to help you survive night shift, and keep your body as healthy as possible.

For all of the nursing students or new nurses working night shift for the first time, these are our tips to help you get through it and stay healthy.

What is Nursing Night Shift?

Nursing night shift, or a night shift nurse, typically is from the hours of 7 pm to 7 am. Although there is some nursing areas, such as the Emergency Department or Operating Room that might have slightly different night shift hours (11 pm to 11 am, etc.).

Why is Night Shift Hard?

Night shift is difficult for several reasons.

Firstly, you are typically without a lot of staff. Most of the hospital staff leaves around 3 pm, so once they’re gone, you’re pretty much on your own. While you can always call for help, there isn’t as much to go around and it might take a little longer than during the day.

Another reason is as humans, we aren’t really designed to stay up all night. So, when on night shift, it can be difficult to stay up. Along with that, it can be difficult to stay healthy. Staying up all night means you pretty much sleep all day (or most of it), so you might not be able to hang out with friends, family or eat the way you normally would.

Additionally, your schedule is completely thrown off. While it might take some time, you probably will be able to adjust to a night shift routine. However, for at least a few months, it will definitely be pretty challenging. One of the most difficult parts is trying to have a normal eating routine.

Reasons to Work Night Shift as a Nurse

While there are negatives, there are several pros to working nursing night shift.

  • More Pay: Night shift nurses get something called shift differentials. Usually differentials are in-effect after 3 pm until 7 am. Nurses can get paid anywhere from $2-5 more an hour just for being on night shift!
  • Less Staff: While less staff on nights can be a bad thing, it can also be a good thing as well. There is less noise and commotion and you typically don’t have as many distractions.
  • No Family: Families can definitely be awesome for a patient’s mental health. However, we all know they can mess with your mental health. But, there’s usually no visitors on night shift!
  • Team Mentality: There is a massive team mentality when it comes to night shift. You don’t have a lot of staff on, so you have to trust your other nursing aids, nurses, physicians and respiratory team members.
  • Slower Pace: You usually have more time to work with your patients, or other coworkers to develop skills. Additionally, you might also have more time to learn about certain drugs or EKG rhythms that you might need to brush up on!

5 Tips to Work Night Shift and Stay Healthy

These are our best tips on how to adjust to night shift nursing and still stay healthy! We also have a whole article dedicated to how to stay awake and survive on night shift.

1. Sleep

Sleep is one of the vital things we humans need to prosper. If you don’t get sleep, you won’t be as happy, you’ll be more stressed and you won’t preform as well. As a nurse, we are expected to be well rested and ready-to-go all shift. So, you should be getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day.

While it can be hard to sleep during the day, you can try using blackout curtains. Shut off your electronic devices at least 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep. And, you can try using other sleeping aids, such as earplugs!

Also, be sure to keep your sleep/wake cycle decently consistent. It can be difficult on days off to be consistent, but it can help a lot when trying maintain a schedule. Try to stay relatively similar to your sleep schedule and make sure your friends and family understand this!

2. Eat

Staying healthy involves eating as well as getting a good day sleep. Making sure you get your adequate calories per day is essential for your brain’s health and your stress levels. You should always bring a snack on your shift along with using scheduled breaks to stop at the cafeteria or vending machine.

You’d be surprised how much of a difference it’ll make when you have food in your belly. You’ll feel a lot better throughout the shift as well as have a better quality of sleep.

3. Drink Water

Water is another vital part of life. You need to drink water consistently and throughout the night. The Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier can help ensure that you avoid the effects of dehydration and stay as healthy as possible on night shift.

When on a night shift, you should bring a water bottle that shows you how much water you should be drinking. You can also set an alarm on your watch to let you know when you should take a drink of water.

While at home, try to drink before you go to bed as well as when you wake up. In order to avoid the effects of dehydration, you should be drinking at least 8 cups of water per day. It can be hard to drink water when on night shift, but if you focus on remembering, you’ll see the benefits.

4. Take Breaks

When on nursing night shift, you should have scheduled breaks. Even if you don’t, you should at least have a lunch break. After eating and drinking, if you’re allowed, take a nap! You should be able to grab some rest throughout the night if your coworkers are alright with it (be sure to know your hospital’s policies, and set your alarm).

If you can’t nap on your break, then take a walk. Walking around can help your blood flow, relieve stress, and clear your head. You can even catch up on your favorite show, listen to music or just enjoy the silence. Totally up to you how you spend your break, but just make sure to take one!

5. Give It Some Time

Night shift nursing is not easy to adjust to, we all know it. But, just know that it will take time to adjust to whatever shift you work. Some new nurses won’t have any trouble adjusting and some it will take up to a year to adjust. We all have different bodies and it’ll just depend on your own body.

So, don’t give up if you’re struggling. Trust me, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of nursing students and new nurses just like yourself that are adjusting too!


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Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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