How to Transition to Working the Night Shift as a Nurse

Whether you’re a nursing student or a registered nurse, you will experience several night shifts during your nursing journey. If you create the right schedule and follow the right techniques, night shifts can become fairly manageable. In this blog, we’ll focus on the transition. If you’re switching to the night shift very soon, how should you acclimatize to such a drastic change? Keep reading.

1. Start Changing Your Sleep Cycle Beforehand

Many nurses and nursing students make the mistake of diving head-first into a night shift. This can be very stressful. You’ll end up feeling fatigued and overwhelmed.

We recommend changing your sleep cycle beforehand. When you still have a week to go, start sleeping a little later than your regular bedtime. Let’s say your night shift is between 10 pm and 6 am. If you sleep around 12 am, start pushing it to 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and so on.

This will help you naturally fall into the rhythm of your night shift. You will not have to force yourself to stay up; this will become your new normal.

During the last few days before your night shift, you should be sleeping around 7 am. If your shift ends at 6 am, it’ll take some time to wrap up and head back home. Take this additional time into consideration.

Recommended Read: Time Management Tips for Nursing Students

2. Make Sure You Get Adequate, Consistent Sleep

a nursing student sleeping

If you have a sleep disorder, you shouldn’t start working the night shift under any circumstances. Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, REM sleep behaviour disorder, and parasomnias (among other sleep disorders) will push you to the brink of utter exhaustion.

If you struggle to fall asleep, sleep intermittently, or don’t get enough sleep, visit a somnologist at the earliest. Do not self-medicate. Your doctor will understand your condition and symptoms. Based on their analysis, they’ll create the right treatment plan for you. This may include medication or lifestyle changes. Once you regulate your sleep, working the night shift will automatically become a lot easier.

3. Keep Your Meals on Track

Switching to the night shift is a slippery slope. Even though you work the same hours, your day will feel longer. Many nurses and nursing students end up skipping meals. Avoid doing this. Keep your meals on track. Make sure you have three meals a day.

We also recommend consuming more fruit to keep your energy levels high. Fruit like bananas and dates are excellent sources of energy. Eat them whole or make a smoothie. This little measure will go a long way in helping you feel energized, focused, and content during your night shift.

Recommended Read: 3 Challenges to Tackle in Nursing School

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