Tips For Surviving Your First Night Shift

Trying to stay awake all night can be a challenge all on its own. Your body is used to sleeping at night and being alert during the day, so switching up this habit can leave you tired with low cognitive abilities. If you are trying to pull an all-nighter for the first time while working a shift at the hospital, there are several things that can help you prepare. It is your job to be awake, energetic and alert to your patient’s needs when working as a CNA or nurse. Here are some tips to help you have a successful first night on the job.

Sleep During the Day

One of the biggest challenges to staying awake all night is getting enough sleep during the day. Most people find it difficult to sleep during the day due to all of the surrounding light and noise. To combat distractions, prepare your bedroom or sleep area ahead of time with day sleeping in mind. Make your sleep area as dark and quiet as possible and keep the room at a cool temperature to help you sleep better throughout the day.

If you are scheduled to work night shifts frequently, it is also important to make sleeping during the day apart of your regular routine. It is imperative for shift workers like nursing assistants to make sleep a priority, so practice responsible sleep habits by teaching your body to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Even on weekends or days off, it will be important to keep the same sleeping patterns.

Don’t Over-Caffeinate

It may seem counterintuitive, but caffeine can often do more harm than good to your energy levels. Too much caffeine can spike up your energy only to make it crash an hour later. You will end up feeling even more tired than you did in the first place. Additionally, if you continue to drink coffee, tea, or soft drinks in the final hours of your shift, you may not be able to go to sleep when you get off work.

To avoid caffeine crashes, consider having one caffeinated beverage or a 5-hour Energy shot at the beginning of your shift, and don’t drink any more throughout the night. One boost of caffeine should be enough to keep you alert without experiencing a crash later.

Pack a Snack  

Eating a big meal in the middle of the night might be a shock for your digestive system, especially if you are not used to night shifts. A big meal could make you suddenly feel sluggish or drowsy as your body tries to digest the food. Instead, try having small snacks throughout the night. Be sure to avoid carbs and sugars that could slow you down, and instead try something with protein. Packs of nuts and bananas are especially helpful if you are in need of a boost of energy.

Take a Power Nap

Napping can be a dangerous game during a night shift. Taking a short, 20 to 30-minute power nap in an on-call room can help energize you during a long shift. However, if you oversleep, you may become even more tired. When napping on your shift, be sure to set an alarm that you will hear. Additionally, make sure you are practicing self-discipline and avoid hitting the snooze button when it’s time to wake up. If you struggle to fall asleep in the busy hospital environment, bring some soothing music or noise-canceling headphones with you.  

Take Advantage of Spare Time

The night shift at most hospitals tends to be much slower paced than the day shift, which gives nurses and CNAs the chance to get to know each other better. Night-shift nurses have to rely on one another even more than other nurses because there are less doctors and staff around to help during late hours. The mellow nature of the night shift also allows nurses to spend more time with their patients and deliver a more intimate level of care. So, if you find yourself with nothing to do on your next night shift, try bonding with a co-worker or patient for a while.

Working the night shift can be an exciting change, but it comes with new challenges. Hopefully, these tips will help you make your first night shift a great success!


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