I work for the NHS as a Healthcare Assistant, and as part of my duties I need to do night shifts. I’ll admit now, they are hard, and can be a bit stressful at times. However, I’ve come up with a few coping mechanisms to see me through.
Surviving the First Night
With night shifts, I have four in a row, and that first night is usually a killer because your body clock is going against it’s routine. The best thing to attempt to do is get a few hours sleep on that first day. It is easier said than done, but here are four tips for how I sometimes manage sleep.
- Try to tire yourself out in the morning. I tend to go to the gym and wear myself out so sleep isn’t such a weird thing in the afternoon.
- Attempt to sleep from 1pm. Since it is usually light out, I shut my blinds and curtains and wear an eye mask. I have a cooling one from the Body Shop. It’s really soothing and lovely.
- Use hypnosis apps. I have two sleep apps on my phone and ipod. They are both Mindifi Apps, and work wonders at getting me to have a few hours sleep.
- Set an alarm. You really don’t want to sleep in and miss work. Bosses tend to frown on that!
During Your Actual Night Shifts
Of course this does depend on the job that you do, but I would like to think that these things are possible to ensure the safety of employees.
- Drink plenty of water. Your body may get dehydrated during the night, so make sure you have a big bottle of water with you to sip on during the night.
- Use your break. Some people use theirs to take a nap, but this makes me feel worse. I use mine to go out in my car with the windows open and get some fresh air. It wakes me up and gets me off the ward for a few minutes.
- Don’t stuff your face. This is a hard one and I do fail at this myself, but try not to eat much after 3am since this can make you feel a bit bloated. It’s not a nice feeling especially if you are tired.
After the Night is Done
- Drive carefully! Tiredness has been proven to have a similar effect on the body as alcohol. So if you do drive to work, take that extra bit of care driving home. Your reflexes are slower and you are sleepy. Please take your time!
- Eat breakfast when you get in. This helps your body stay in some form of routine for when you are finished night shifts, and will help you sleep better.
- Step away from the technology! The lights in phones, kindles, laptops ecetera stimulate the brain to stay awake. So stop checking your facebook feed and sleep! You will need it.
When that Final Night Shift is over..
This is such a hard one, but will help you get back into your regular routine; stay awake for as long as possible and keep yourself busy. I don’t know how I manage it but I can stay awake after that final night shift, and go to sleep at 7/8pm. However, if you really do need sleep, set your alarm to wake you up at 11am. Just so the day is not lost and you will still sleep on the evening.
I hope this helps anyone who is starting night shifts soon, or if you are struggling with night shift routines at the moment. If you do work night shifts, what are your coping strategies?
Bye for now!