WOO I can’t wait to start night shift…. said no shift worker ever.
Nightshift is unfortunately part of the package when you become a nurse, midwife, doctor or paramedic and to say it’s one of my favourite parts of being in the profession would be a big fat lie. As I’m sure you’re painfully aware working a roster that incorporates regular night shift predisposes individuals to an increased risk of developing sleep disturbances, metabolic disruptions, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, job dissatisfaction, social isolation, gastrointestinal disorders, some cancers and weight gain. Whilst these things sound scary its something that we need to be aware of so that we can ensure that the routines we uphold during our night shift stints can work to counterbalance some of the factors that increase these risks.
Below are a few things that I have been experimenting with over the last few months to make night shift less of a drag and a more pleasant experience;
1. On the day prior to night shift commencing I do VERY little, sleep in, have a cruisy morning, exercise in the afternoon, nap for 2hours and have a decent sized meal for dinner.
2. I don’t drink caffeinated beverages overnight, I have my last coffee at 2100 before hand over and stick to water, kombucha or herbal teas for the rest of the shift.
3. I tend not to nap overnight to avoid sleep inercia, however if you choose to a “Napacchino” can be helpful to reduce the feeling of sleep inercia. This involves having a coffee, then taking a 10-20min nap, the coffee will take 25mins to kick in so when you wake up it will be starting to take effect.
4. I have a big nutritious dinner @ 1930, and then try and have a healthy snack @ midnight, then fast until 0600 to assist with better blood glucose regulation and reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. This has been tricky though because often we don’t get to sit down until after midnight (if at all) so getting to your snacks pre midnight can be a real challenge. It’s also challenged by the array of snack foods on hand @ the nurses/midwives station, which, on a busy night, is easy to grab as you’re running from one place to another to keep you fuelled. All you can do is your best!
5. Get outside and sweat upon waking up. It helps me shake off that post-sleep stale lethargic feeling. I set my alarm for 1600 – hit up a 1630 or 1700 F45 class and it sets me up for the night ahead.
6. Prime my room for sleeping and comfort, heat blanket in winter/fan in summer, silk pajamas, silk eye mask, earplugs, lavender, clary sage & marjoram in the diffuser. This blend has been absolute heaven for getting a good 7-8hrs sleep during the day.
7. No fluids after 0500 to avoid needing to get up multiples times to wee during the day whilst you’re trying to sleep.
8. Minimise time exposed to daylight post shift, prolonged exposure can lead to difficulty falling asleep once you get home. I need to find some light reducing goggles for the drive home.
9. Eat a low GI breakfast at 0600-0700 to allow enough time for it to digest a little before hitting the hay, prevents you from waking up hungry at midday.
10. A drop of digestzen under the tongue or ginger + lemon or peppermint tea to help fight any night duty nausea. Works an absolute treat.
11. Make a little “nightshift” specific ritual that makes it feel less dreaded – for example I braid my hair (when Mikes around to help me part it straight 😂), wear silk pajamas and treat myself to a massage once its over – these things seem small but they make it a bit more bearable for me. Find whatever works for you.