Night Shift Nurses: 10 Tips for Maintaining Sleep Schedules

In Career Advice, Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse
May 12, 2016

Night Shift Nurses

Night shift nurses have some of the most hectic schedules among all types of careers, making maintaining a healthy sleep schedule much more difficult for them. Most workers get up, go to their jobs, come home to eat dinner, and wind down in preparation for sleep – which can be easier said than done, especially if you’re a nurse who works odd hours. 

Nurses need a good sleep schedule to stay healthy and perform well on the job.Luckily, there are many steps you can take to improve your sleep habits and start feeling more alert and energized.

10 Sleep Tips for Night Shift Nurses:

1. Develop a Bedtime Routine

Create a bedtime routine for yourself and stick to it! Establishing a routine will help your body and mind realize when it’s time for bed, and you will have an easier time falling asleep.

Be patient, as it will take a while to establish the routine. The key here is to remember to be as consistent as you can.  Turn off all electronics an hour before bed, set soothing music to relax you, use eyeshades or ear plugs if need be, and try mediation. Even with your hectic schedule, try to do the same things each night (or morning) before bed to condition your body into falling asleep.

2. Brush Before Bed

If you brush and floss two hours before bed, you will be less likely to eat or drink anything. Eating or drinking too close to bedtime causes some people to experience difficulty falling or staying asleep.

3. Exercise Early

Whether working the day or night shift, make sure to keep your workouts in the “mornings” of your day. Your body needs to wind down and learn to relax in order to fall asleep, and a late night workout can disrupt this.

4. Avoid Screens and Bright Lights

Studies show that using cell phone or tablet screens late at night not only mess with your sleep schedule, they also negatively impact your alertness the following day. The blue light given off can keep you awake much longer than you want by confusing your brain into thinking it’s not time to sleep just yet.

Do yourself a favor by dimming the lights for the last few hours you’re awake and avoiding screens for at least 30 minutes before attempting to fall asleep.

5. Bedrooms Are For Sleeping

Create a calm, relaxing environment in your bedroom. Think of it as a sanctuary. Don’t bring in loud music, laptops, and iPads, and don’t use your phone.

Spend the last hour or two before bed in your bedroom and keep work out of it. Focus on deep breathing, meditation, soothing sounds, reading, etc. These will also serve as triggers to tell your brain it’s time to power down for the day.

6. Prepare Your Room For Sleeping

It may seem obvious, but you need to make sure your bedroom promotes sleep. Too often people are restless because there is a distraction that either prevents them from falling asleep or which may wake them during the night.

Whether you’re trying to get some shuteye at night, or during the day, you want to make sure your room is as dark as possible. Invest in thick curtains that block out the sun, streetlights, and headlamps from passing cars. Also, make sure any lights from electronics, clocks, or chargers are covered. Additionally, if you live in a noisy area, invest in some earplugs that may block out all disturbing sounds.

7. Don’t Get Too Warm

If your room is too hot, it may disrupt your sleep. Most people overcompensate for a cold room by cranking up the heat, only to find out that they wake up hours later. Make sure your room temperature is at a nice cool level, and add extra blankets or sheets to keep you warm.

8. Use Quality Bedding

As a nurse, you need at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night (or day) to properly function while on the job. So, if you’re spending all that time in bed, why not invest in quality sheets?

Buy the best sheets that are comfortable to you. Especially if you work odd hours or the night shift, you will want to come home to luxurious-feeling sheets that will ease you into good, quality sleep. We spend 1/3 of our time sleeping, on average, so why not spend a little extra and have the best available bedding on the market?

9. Deal With Bothersome Partners

If your partner snores, or tosses and turns, that can disrupt your sleep or make it hard to fall asleep if you come in at a later time. To make sure their own sleeping patterns don’t interrupt your own, try to use two separate quilts, or invest in earplugs. In extreme cases, consider sleeping in separate rooms.

If your bedtime partner is a pet, it may be time to kick your beloved animal out of the room if they are keeping you up at night.

10. Don’t Force It

The trick here is to get your body to recognize the bed as a time for sleepiness, not wakefulness. Sometimes sleep just isn’t on the agenda. If you had a hard shift, and you are still restless after about 30 minutes, try doing some yoga, reading, or playing soft music. Don’t turn to electronics or anything stimulating, and try again after about 30 minutes.

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