Nursing is an in-demand profession that offers personal fulfillment but can also be particularly tough. Shift work is common in this profession as emergencies can occur anytime, and patients staying in the hospitals may require consistent monitoring. Therefore, apart from the day shift, plenty of night shift positions are always available in this field, and while night shifts may seem like a dream job for night owls, they also have their own unique challenges. Several nurses find it taxing to work in these shifts as irregular circadian rhythms and failure to keep up with the daily lives of their loved ones can take a toll on their mental and physical health.

Night shift is not entirely bad and offers various benefits like reduced workload, higher salary, and more opportunities to form close bonds with fellow workers. However, there are ways that all nurses can adopt to efficiently make it through the night shift while maintaining a healthy personal and social life.

The night shift is mostly slow-paced and provides you with a lot of free time. Therefore, it can be ideal for nurses in the initial stages of their career planning to pursue an advanced degree to enhance their nursing skills. An online RN to BSN program offers a convenient professional foundation to excel in your nursing career.

Despite the pros and cons of working a night shift, nurses may still need some motivation and guidance on their tough days. This article will discuss the several ways nurses can effectively stay on their toes during night shifts.

1. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can cause headaches, tiredness, and sleepiness, making the night shift seem even longer. It can affect your performance as a nurse because your cognitive function is negatively affected by dehydration. You may neglect your patients and won’t be able to provide them with top-quality patient care. Therefore, hydration is the key to improving your cognitive function and efficiently performing your nurse duties.

It is advised to drink fresh juices and always carry a bottle of water during your nightly shifts to stay hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water each day and most of it during your shift. It will also keep you awake and active by regularly sending you to the bathroom.

2. Exercise Regularly

Lack of physical activity can increase your chances of developing cardiac and gastrointestinal diseases. Staying inactive for a long time can impact your energy levels and stop you from performing your nursing duties efficiently. Moreover, you will also get tired more easily and quickly. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for night shift nurses to exercise regularly to stay fit and healthy.

You should keep moving around during your shift as it will release adrenaline in your body, which will keep you awake by improving your mood and boosting your energy. Moreover, the overall vibe during the night shift can become rather lazy and dreary. Exercise will uplift your mood and will also ensure better quality sleep after the end of the shift.

3. Get Quality Sleep

One of the biggest challenges that nightshift nurses face is getting eight hours of quality sleep each day. Lack of sleep can cause various physical and mental problems that can potentially impact their performance at work. Sleep-deprived nurses are more prone to making mistakes during work hours. 

Since nurses work in a field where mistakes can mean life and death for someone, they should focus on getting recommended hours of sleep. They should also stick to a sleep schedule (wake up and sleep at the same time daily) to improve the quality of their sleep. Here are some tips that can help you get good quality eight hours of sleep;

  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to make your body less aware of the daylight.
  • Invest in blackout drapes to block any sunlight from entering your room to create a night-like atmosphere in the room. 
  • The blue light from screens blocks the melatonin hormone, which can disrupt your sleep schedule. So, avoid screens before going to sleep.
  • Use earplugs and disconnect all noise-making devices.
  • Keep your work area well lit during work hours, fools your body into thinking that it is daytime, and makes it tired after the shift is over.

4. Monitor Your Caffeine Intake

A hot cup of coffee may seem like a delicious option to many nurses during the night shift. Another reason to consume caffeinated drinks can be to stay alert and perform nursing duties efficiently. However, when it comes to caffeine, moderation is the key. Over-consumption of caffeinated products can negatively affect your sleep schedule because too much caffeine can cause insomnia and restlessness. Moreover, it can trigger anxiety, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and digestive issues in some people.

Therefore, avoid consuming caffeinated products including espresso, soda, energy drinks, and more, especially near the end of your shift to prepare your body for sleep. However, if you want to stay alert and active during your shift, consume coffee or other caffeinated products in moderation.  

5. Maintain a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for nurses. Lack of proper nutrition can make you prone to physical illnesses. Moreover, eating hard-to-digest junk food can make you sluggish during your shift and can negatively affect your performance.

Try eating three proper meals a day to stay fresh and active. It is best to plan your meals ahead to avoid resorting to unhealthy snacking at the last moment. Moreover, you can munch wisely on healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, dry fruits, and more during your shift. They provide you with the maximum amount of energy and help you stay alert to provide quality care to your patients.   

The Bottom Line

Nurses perform similar duties during the day and at night. However, working in night shift presents some unique challenges. If not managed properly, a night shift can negatively affect the physical, mental, and social health of a nurse. Therefore, nurses should develop healthy routines and stick to them to stay fit and active. Some ways to stay healthy and provide quality care to your patients include staying hydrated, which improves your cognitive performance. Consuming a balanced diet keeps you fresh and active. Moreover, getting quality sleep of eight hours and staying active by exercising regularly can keep you on your toes during your night shift. Lastly, avoid over-consumption of caffeinated products as they can disrupt your circadian rhythms affecting your sleep. Hopefully, this article will help you understand how to stay active during a night shift.


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