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Most registered nurses (RNs) will have to work the night shift at some point. In fact, some RNs choose to work overnight voluntarily, as there are some advantages, such as differential pay, a quieter atmosphere, better relationships with coworkers, and more self-reliance. Even if you're comfortable with the night shift, it's still an adjustment. Here are some handy tips for RNs on how to handle the night shift and have the best possible experience:
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1. Get a Full "Night's" Sleep
Just because you have to sleep during the day doesn't mean you can get by on less sleep. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep at a stretch, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to help your body and mind adjust.
2. Eat a Good Meal Before Your Shift
Unlike during the day, when there are often plenty of food options available, the pickings can be slim on the night shift. Make sure to sit down for a full, nutritious meal before your shift to give yourself the energy you need to get through the next few hours.
3. Avoid Sleeping Pills
When transitioning to the night shift, it can be tempting to use sleeping pills or other aids to help you fall asleep during the day. However, this can backfire, as it can prevent your circadian rhythm from adjusting. Instead, try to establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible, even on your days off.
4. Get Plenty of Exercise
Regular exercise is beneficial for everyone, but it's especially important for night-shift RNs. Exercise can help to tire you out so you can sleep more easily during the day, and it also releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting and energy-enhancing effects.
5. Set the Stage for Quality Sleep
Make your bedroom as dark, quiet, and cool as possible. Invest in blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a comfortable mattress and pillows. You may also want to try using a sleep mask and earplugs to block out any light or noise that may disrupt your sleep.
6. Relax After Work
Many RNs are tempted to go straight to bed after working the night shift. However, this can make it difficult to fall asleep, as your body and mind may still be in "go" mode. Instead, try to relax for at least a few hours before going to bed. This could involve reading, taking a bath, or listening to calming music.
7. Wear a Brightly Lit Digital Watch
It can be easy to lose track of time while working the night shift, as your brain isn't as used to being awake during those hours. Wearing a brightly lit digital watch will help you to stay on track and avoid getting too tired.
8. Insist on a Consistent Schedule
If possible, try to negotiate a consistent schedule with your employer. This will help your body and mind adjust to the night shift and make it easier to get a good night's sleep on your days off.
Although the night shift can be slower and quieter, RNs always need to be at the top of their game to ensure quality patient care. By following these tips, you can make the night shift more manageable and get through your shifts as effectively as possible.