- 29 April 2019
- 9 min read
7 ways to survive the night shift
Night shifts can be a shock to the system, especially when you love your sleep! However, it's mandatory to work nights as part of your nursing course. Here are Claire's tips to get through them.
Hi everyone and welcome back!
Here are my top tips for surviving your night shifts.
So firstly, the rules and regulations of the NMC guidelines state that as student nurses we must experience the 24-hour care system, so that includes nights, weekends, bank holidays, but they don't specifically say how many night shifts we do.
I know certain universities will have their own rules and policies about how many night shifts you should do in a year but according to the NMC guidelines, there's no specific set laws and rules about this.
However, we do have to experience the 24-hour care system so you are going to do a night at some point.
There are some exemptions, so there can be reasonable adjustments put in place so if you have any medical conditions or if you have any physical disabilities or anything like that - have a look at the NMC guidelines on this because there can be reasonable adjustments put into place for you.
Check this out with your personal tutors, university program directors and the NMC guidelines online - if you have a look for pre-registration nurses, have a look.
So following this I'm here to give you some of my top tips for surviving your night shifts when it comes to it.
To be honest, when I knew I had to do nights in my first year I was dreading it.
I'm not gonna lie, I lost my sleep and I thought ‘oh my god, I'm going to struggle so much! What am I gonna do, because by 9/10 p.m. at night I'm usually asleep and I'm gonna be at work and trying to keep myself awake!’ and I did panic about it but I put some things in place to make sure that my tiredness didn't get the better of me and I could make the most of my night shifts.
I want to pass on those tips to you and hopefully, I'll help you. These are just my own personal tips, if you have any other tips that I haven't stated here please comment below for somebody else to see - it might really help someone out!
What works for me might not work for you so it's just about finding your own routine and your own way of doing things and getting into those night shifts, but hopefully, these tips are going to help you.
Get a lot of sleep in before your night shift
So on your very first-night shift, you want to get a really good night's sleep the night before.
So go to bed as normal - other people might advise going to bed as late as possible, so the night before preparing yourself for that night shift and sometimes that works but just for me personally I go to bed as normal the night before.
I get up really early the day of the night shift, so I got up at 5:00 a.m. on the day.
I went about my normal duties as normal and then I had a three-hour sleep in the afternoon from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., I got up, I ate before I went on my night shift and then I had a coffee before I started my night shift.
But mainly you need to sleep before your night shift.
So then the second day you will sometimes find it hard to sleep but try not to let that distract you.
I'm gonna come up with some of the tips for you to help with that, but make sure you sleep in the day is the top tip.
You might find that you sleep easy after a night shift - I sort of struggled a little bit to start with but then you get into a routine of doing it which isn't too bad.
Trick your brain into thinking it’s night time during the day
This is going to lead me on to tip number two which is when you go to sleep in the day after your night shift make sure you wear an eye mask, cover your windows completely; if you haven't got blackout curtains then you can put something over - I used to put towels and duvets and all sorts over my windows to completely block out the light so my brain thought that it was nighttime and it did help.
It helped massively shut off any distractions, but if you've got families and if you've got pets that pester you, anything like that, just make sure that they’re all aware that you really need this sleep and this is really important to you, and hopefully they will respect that and let you sleep.
If not, find somewhere else to sleep, somewhere really calm and quiet, where you're gonna manage to sleep.
Prepare food that will give you energy
My next tip for surviving your night shift is to make sure you prepare your food wisely.
So on your night shift, you don't want to eat big meals because, as you might have experienced already, you might feel really heavy, bloated, really sleepy after your lunch or dinner when you have a big meal and you're gonna want to sleep.
So my advice is to get some snacks in so that you can snack throughout the night.
The snacks you want is something that's going to give you some high energy, so things like apples, nuts, fruits, little bits of salad, some carrots and hummus - little snacky things that are gonna really really help you survive your night shift. Avoid big, stodgy meals like pasta and carbs and as well as avoiding the pasta and the carbs you want to avoid high sugar foods like cakes and sweets.
The rationale behind that is because those sort of things, they give you that instant boost of a sugar rush but then you're going to dip, you're going to drop again so you want something more long-acting, more sustainable.
Also, coffee is most people's lifesaver - have some coffee!
Don’t drink caffeine before the end of the shift
But the next piece of advice is, coming into the end of your night shift like an hour or two hours before you finish your night shift, do not drink any caffeine at all because you want to sleep when you get home.
Stay active when you feel yourself getting tired
My next tip for night shift is the 3 a.m., the dreaded 3 a.m. on a night shift.
Many people that have done nights will know what this time means.
It comes to a point in the night which is 3 a.m. where you are going to just be like, ‘oh I'm so tired I can't do this’ and that is a really tough time.
I don't know why it happens at this time but it's happened to me and it's happened to a lot of people that I know. Let me know if it has happened to you!
But during that period if you're really struggling to stay awake and focus and you're finding it really hard, get up and walk around to do some cleaning.
If all the patients are asleep go out and clean the trolleys, do some work, physically walk up and down the ward.
Just keep yourself active so that you're not sitting and you're not drifting off to sleep!
Night shifts are the perfect time to go over your placement documents with your mentor
Another top tip is to make sure you take your placement documents with you on your night shift because this is a great time for your mentor to get it filled out and go through it with you.
Sometimes, depending on where you work on your night shift, it might be really busy like if you're in at the weekend or something like that where it's non-stop that's ok but in some areas like where I did my night shift the nights were really really quiet.
We didn't have a lot to do, all the patients were settled, we did all the cleaning, we did everything and we were like, okay what can we do now?
But that is a time to go over your placement documents with your mentor and they can go through it and you can sit and do that.
So use that time wisely!
Make sure you can get home safely
And my very last tip, which might sound silly but it's the most sensible one I think, make sure after your night shift you get home safely.
If you're driving home after a night shift you're going to be exhausted, so make sure you wind down the windows, you stop halfway if you're feeling tired, be really focused on what you're doing if you can.
Just make sure you get home safely because the last thing you want is an accident.
Also, if you're going by public transport it's probably going to be really easy to drift off because of the motion of the train or the motion of the bus and you might miss your bus stop which is going to be annoying, but it's not as bad as if you're in a car and you fall asleep.
So maybe if you do drive or you are getting public transport, see if your partner, a friend, a colleague or anyone that lives close to you could take you, maybe someone can pick you up to just help you out a little bit.
But if you are travelling home alone, driving in your car or on the bus, just make sure you get home safely.
So that is it for me, thank you so much for tuning in and I shall see you next time!