Getting Rid of the Night Shift Blues for Travel Nurses

Posted On October 15, 2012

Working the night shift is not the easiest thing in the world. True, many travel nurses choose to work at night because of its advantages. The night shift, for instance, has differential pay, offers a more laid-back work situation, and gives travel nurses the opportunity to use their days for exploration and other activities. Plus, working at night allows them to avoid the dreary rush hour traffic. That said, the cons of working the night shift are numerous as well. The more obvious one being fighting off sleep.

Fortunately, the more night shift schedules travel nurses such as yourself take, the more your body gets used to staying awake during the wee hours of the morning. You never fully adjust to the nurse’s “night life” but the condition does get better.

If you’re a newbie in the realm of nighttime nursing, here are some tips you might find useful:

  1. Don’t sleep when you get home right away, especially if you get home just before the sun rises. You might be ready to crash but fight it off, at least for a little while. Watch TV, cook a meal, treat the end of your shift as you would if you were working during the day. You don’t normally hit the sack right after a grueling day at the office, do you? This way, your sleep will be more relaxed and your body would adjust more rhythmically to your schedule.
  2. That said, don’t stay awake too late. Make sure that you get the daily required eight hours of sleep during your off hours. You’ll be more energized at night if your body is fully recharged.
  3. In order for the circadian rhythm of experienced travel nurses who work during the night to adjust more quickly, they work their way towards their nighttime schedule if they can. Do the same. Move from day shift to an afternoon or evening shift and then the night shift.
  4. Eat a full meal before going to work. During the day, nurses can easily skip breakfast because they know that, in case they get hungry, they can always go to the cafeteria. Nighttime nurses, especially travel nurses who are new to a facility, have to take their chances. You might not find anything to eat during the night. Bring snacks with you if you like.
  5. If you have the option, schedule your night shift so that you can do your personal business like going to the bank immediately after work. If you get off from work at six in the morning and have to wait for the bank to open, your bank time will be eating up the time allotted for sleep.
  6. Many travel nurses who work the night shift swear by sleep masks and earplugs. These little items can help you sleep more soundly. Cheat your body into thinking that it’s time for bedtime and it will behave accordingly.

There are other little things you can do to adjust more quickly to the night shift. What you don’t want to do, though, is rely on sleeping pills to get sleep or too much caffeine to stay awake. Your body will not appreciate the mixed messages it’s getting. Instead, help your body adapt to your work schedule. Think of it as training for a marathon. At first it might be hard but with a little time and exercise you should be okay.