Hi friends!! So this is actually Cassie, Sarah Bowmar’s younger sister! I was so excited when Sarah asked me to write this blog about all things night shift and nursing and how to thrive/survive on night shift!
I am a labor and delivery nurse and I work from 7 PM- 7:30 AM, which you fellow night shifters know..that actually means I leave my house at 6:15 PM and get home around 8:15 AM on a good night! I usually work 2-3 nights per week, take “on call” shifts and am enrolled in additional specialty classes. So I am pretty much always flipping my sleep schedule back and forth. I am here to explain how I change my sleep schedule, what I eat and how to maintain healthy boundaries with work and life.
How I sleep–
I always would recommend working your nights in a row if possible. Obviously, sometimes your schedule will be moved and that is not always possible, but I would always try! This way you are flipping your sleep schedule back and forth as little as possible.
Let’s say I work Tuesday night as my first shift for the week and I am starting at 7 PM. In order to get my sleep schedule to align with the night shift. I would try and stay up later on Monday night. For me, this means that I will stay up until Tuesday morning at 2 AM, and then I will go to bed. I try to sleep until 4 PM the next day. Then I have from 4 PM until 6 PM to get dressed, pack my lunch, eat some breakfast, drink some coffee, and spend time with my husband (if he is off work on time). Usually, I am so tired from working the week prior that I actually succeed at doing this. However, sometimes I wake up at 11 AM or 1 PM and I am up for the day and that is okay too. Your body can only do what you can do. I often get stressed out if I feel like I don’t get enough sleep or wake up feeling groggy before a long shift. This is totally normal to feel, you’d be surprised what your body can push through, however here are some tips to help improve your sleep!
- GET BLACK-OUT CURTAINS. You need them. Get the good stuff. Make your room as dark as possible to make it easier for your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Use your bedtime alarm setting. This automatically turns your phone on “do not disturb” and blocks all notifications. So if you wake up and tap on your phone to see the time, you do not get distracted by all of the things you “missed” during your time asleep.
- Stop feeling guilty for needing to sleep during the day! Stop feeling guilty for saying no to plans. Say no. You need to sleep and people who don’t do shift work just don’t get it. You don’t owe them an explanation. Get sleep and take care of yourself! You will be better for it.
- Take melatonin. This helps so much!! Melatonin is something that our bodies already naturally produce and it basically tells your body– hey it is time to wind down and go to bed. When flipping your sleep schedule, this gets all messed up so taking a natural supplement when it is time for you to sleep helps a lot!
- Get a loud fan to block any other sound…especially for those of you with little kids…you NEED this!
Here is the nurse gift guide that has links to some of my favorite purchases/gifts!
What I eat–
Usually, I wake up anywhere from 3-4:30 PM before I am to go in for a night shift. I usually drink a cup of coffee and a glass of water! STAY HYDRATED! Recently I have been waking up and trying to drink my Bowmar Nutrition immunity, collagen, greens and sharp all before the day fully begins. After this is finished, I move on to my coffee. Then I usually have a little breakfast sandwich, yogurt with fruit and granola, or a protein bar. I also love packing the new APEX snack items!
Then I pack my lunch!
I try to meal prep throughout the week in order to make this part of work prep easier! So I try to have leftovers to eat for my lunchtime (usually this is anywhere from midnight-2 AM). Then I pack crackers of some form as a snack and usually a healthier sweet treat. Working at night, all of your cravings can go crazy, and then the patients bring in donuts or something yummy for you and your healthy night goes all out of whack because sugar is harder to resist when you are exhausted, hungry, and awake at 3 AM. But I have found if I pack a lunch that I am excited about, it is much easier for me to say no to the unnecessary snacking! Obviously, I say yes to certain things (donuts are just my weakness okay guys), but yes in moderation is okay, yes every night could cause some trouble.
Then when I get home from work (8-8:30 AM), I usually drink a glass of water and go straight to sleep because I am so tired!
Boundaries/ work-life balance–
This is a tough one to figure out and honestly, life is pretty much always crazy, which is why boundaries are so important to have!
With night shift work, especially as a health care worker, it is very hard to leave work at work. We hear and experience with our patients: countless emergencies, heartbreaks, trauma, pain, busyness, exhaustion, and more. It is hard to leave work and just be expected to then have a normal day. There is a lot that we see and A LOT to process. Spend time reflecting on your shifts. It helps me to journal and pray and then I feel more able to let it go, leave work at work, and then I can be present in my life outside of work.
Unless there is a pressing financial burden and this is absolutely needed for your life and family, try to avoid picking up too many extra shifts. Obviously, if your co-workers really need a shift covered, try and help them out, but you cannot meet every need and you need time off work to be a helpful worker.
Try not to compare your life to those working the typical 9-5 jobs with weekends and holidays off that get these huge bonuses and vacation time and all of those things. There are many perks to health care jobs, and it is also really hard and so different from what the rest of the world experiences. Try your best to not compare your life to others because it will completely rob you of the joy in your own, current situation. You are doing work that carries a huge weight of importance. You are genuinely making a difference in the lives of your patients! This is something that is irreplaceable and so important!
I hope this is helpful for you! If you’d like to learn or hear more about this or need anything, please reach out to Sarah Bowmar with questions and she will get them to me as needed!
Remember that you are doing hard work that matters more than you will ever know!