Nurses are no strangers to the ill-effects of working night shifts. Aside from being physically draining, a graveyard schedule can also put them at risk for several health issues like high blood pressure, obesity, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Despite these negative effects, working night shifts are still inevitable for most nurses especially those who are working in short-staffed hospitals. To help you stay healthy and fit, here are some of the best tips on how nurses can recover from night shifts.
1. Establish A Better Sleeping Schedule
For someone working the night shift, getting good sleep is still essential. Without enough rest, you can end up highly irritable and less focused at work. These things can impair your judgement and put your patients at risk.
If you are working on a night shift on a regular basis, you should try to establish a regular sleep/wake cycle too. Instead of adjusting your sleeping hours to your work and personal schedule, try to do it the other way around. Build your schedule based on the time you get to sleep and wake up.
Avoid working for extended hours and skip other personal activities if you haven’t rested yet. Learn how to say no and how to prioritise your health before anything else. Although it’s tempting to go out and enjoy after your shift, you should take a rest first. This will make it easier for your body to recover.
2. Create A Conducive Sleeping Space At Home
Light and noise can make it hard for you to sleep especially since you’re going against your body’s natural clock. To trick your body, keep your room as dark as possible. You may also need to shut your doors and windows to make sure you won’t get distracted or be suddenly awakened by loud noises.
Keep your room at a comfortable temperature. Staying in a room that’s too cold or too hot can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
If you have a routine at night before getting to bed, you can do it in the morning as well. Get clothes that are comfortable enough to sleep in and remember to thoroughly cleanse your face before sleeping.
Makeup, excess oil, and dirt left on your skin can easily clog your pores and trigger breakouts. They can make your skin look dull, too.
3. Be Wise With Caffeinated Drinks
A cup of coffee while you’re on duty can help you stay alert throughout the night. You can drink one to two cups in the early hours of your shift to keep you active.
Keep in mind that it usually takes 20 to 30 minutes before caffeine kicks in so make sure to avoid drinking coffee and other caffeinated drinks a few hours before your shift ends. If you take it excessively and at the wrong time, your favourite cup can make it difficult for you to take proper rest.
4. Stay Hydrated
To avoid fatigue and headaches after your shift, you need to keep yourself hydrated throughout the night. Avoid drinking tea as it has a diuretic effect on the body and limit indulging in carbonated drinks since they don’t really provide healthy benefits.
Bring your own bottle to the station so you can drink lots of water anytime you feel thirsty. When the shift starts to get busy, it can be difficult to run all the way to your locker just to drink. Aside from preventing exhaustion, drinking enough water can also keep you feeling refreshed throughout your shift.
5. Get Your Loved Ones on The Same Page
Night shifts can easily make you feel isolated, especially when you start missing important family celebrations because you are too tired to get out of bed. The schedule can also make family members feel neglected and unimportant as well.
To address these issues, it’s a good idea to talk to your loved ones and explain how your working schedule is a bit different. It will not only help you and your family create an arrangement, but it can also give you the opportunity to establish a sleeping schedule to help you recover faster.
6. Ensure Your Safety
Part of the risks that comes with working on night shifts is your physical safety. When you’re too tired and sleepy, make sure that you’re not driving home alone. Choose public transportation if possible and never leave without a co-worker or friend in tow. If you are travelling by yourself, make sure that you are awake throughout the journey.
It’s also a nice idea if you can carpool with another nurse on your way home. You won’t only get to save on gas but you’ll also have a chance to bond with your co-worker, too.
Sunlight can also be a bit stressful to the eyes, especially if you didn’t get a chance to nap during your shift. Wear dark sunglasses before heading out of the hospital so your eyes won’t get excessively exposed.
7. Be Mindful of What You Eat
Weight gain is one of the most common effects of working on night shifts. This often results from the mindless eating nurses do after getting off of work like getting drinks from the vending machines and ordering fast food.
After your shift, you should eat meals that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat. These foods will make it easier for you to fall asleep. Some of your best options include toasts, orange juice, and cereals.
8. Get Regular Medical and Dental Checkups
Night shifts can increase your risk of developing cavities and malignancies. For prevention or early treatment, you should schedule getting routine medical and dental checkups.
You should also get your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels constantly checked so you can get proper treatment right away in case there’s something wrong. Nurses will only be able to fully care for their patients if they are well and healthy enough.
Good luck on your night shifts!