Four Tips For Nurses Working The Night Shift

Patient care transcends the boundaries of time, which is why hospitals and other healthcare facilities recruit staff to look after patients long after conventional working hours.

However, nurses may feel like they have entered another universe when working the night shift. Why? Because we live most of our lives with a regular circadian rhythm. So it might be difficult to operate at night because of the disruption to your body’s internal clock.

This unusual schedule turns nurses into sleep-deprived zombies who cling to their caffeine fixes at all costs. Fortunately, you do not have to be one of them.

Here Are Four Prime Ideas For Nurses Working The Night Shift

Nurses Working The Night Shift

In this guide, we have put together surefire tips to help you get through nocturnal hours:

1. Stay Busy

In healthcare settings, night shifts typically subscribe to a more subdued atmosphere compared to day shifts. The activity drop during nighttime could be attributed to various factors, such as fewer patient admissions, fewer scheduled procedures, and decreased visitor traffic.

This decline in productivity is susceptible to fatigue. The absence of noise, interactions, and external stimuli can make it easier for tiredness to take hold. Furthermore, the dim lighting triggers the body’s natural inclination to wind down.

The best way to avoid all these issues is to keep yourself busy. You can capitalize this free time in various ways, including catching up on documentation and paperwork, updating patient charts, and reviewing and analyzing medical records.

Apart from engaging doing to operational tasks, you may use the free time for professional development. For example, if you have completed your bachelor’s degree in nursing, you may consider applying for higher educational degrees.  

The convenience and accessibility of online master in nursing degrees make them an attractive option for working nurses. With technological advancements, nurses can access and complete these programs while working without disrupting their personal lives.

2. Stay Hydrated

In healthcare settings, the well-being of patients is directly associated with the quick response of nurses. A momentary lapse in attention or a missed detail could potentially result in complications or even loss of life.

For instance, let’s say you are looking after a patient with diabetes. In that case, you are responsible for regularly monitoring the patient’s blood sugar levels and administering insulin. A minor oversight means the patient’s blood sugar levels might be dangerously high.

Without prompt intervention, the patient may experience diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

So nurses should stay on guard during the night shift to reduce the risk of mistakes. And one way to do that is to stay on top of hydration. To operate at its best, the brain needs a sufficient supply of water. When dehydrated, the brain can keep up with reduced blood flow and oxygenation, leading to cognitive impairments such as decreased attention span and slower reaction times.

Moreover, dehydration could also pave the way for severe headaches. Nurses experiencing headaches may have trouble effectively communicating with patients, their families, and the healthcare team. It may adversely affect the exchange of critical information.

Here are some tips for nurses to keep themselves hydrated:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle and keep it easily accessible throughout your shift.
  • Opt for hydrating snacks such as fruits, vegetables, or yogurt.
  • Monitor the color of your urine as a hydration indicator; pale yellow is a good sign.
  • Be mindful of the temperature in your work environment. If it is hot, increase your fluid intake accordingly.

3. Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule

Working night shifts already challenges the body’s natural inclination to be awake during daylight hours and sleep during the night. Therefore, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule becomes even more crucial for night shift nurses. By sticking to a regular sleep routine, nurses can align their internal body clock with their work schedule.

It optimizes their ability to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times and helps them get more restorative sleep.

After completing a 12-hour night shift, many nurses return home early in the morning and promptly go to bed. That said, it is common for these nurses to wake up after only a few hours and go about their day, visiting with friends and family or running errands.

While nurses should prioritize sleep after work, experts emphasize the importance of incorporating a nap into their routine before the next night shift. Even a short one-hour nap right before starting a night shift can boost their cognitive function throughout the night.

Indeed, establishing a stable sleep schedule is easier said than done. It requires discipline and commitment. You may start by creating a soothing nighttime ritual. Read a book, soak in a hot tub, or try deep breathing exercises or meditation to unwind and calm down.

Using blackout curtains is another proven strategy to create an inducive sleep environment during the daytime. Be sure to buy heavy fabrics with multiple layers to maximize light-blocking capabilities.

4. Prioritize Exercise

Nursing is often assumed as a mentally exhausting profession. However, it involves a substantial amount of physical labor as well. For instance, nurses often need to move patients who may be bedridden or have limited mobility.

This requires them to use proper body mechanics and exert physical effort to ensure the safety and comfort of the patients. They may have to lift, turn, or reposition patients regularly, which can strain their back, shoulders, and other muscles. That is why nurses should spare some time for physical activity as well.

Recreation centers could be excellent resources for nurses looking to incorporate exercise into their routines. These facilities often provide yoga classes catering to early morning and afternoon schedules.

Joining structured exercise classes means you will be working with qualified instructors. This is particularly great for nurses unfamiliar with certain exercises or needing assistance.

Moreover, exercise classes also make up for a great environment. Interacting with fellow participants regularly will create a sense of camaraderie and support, encouraging attendance in the long run while improving work-life balance.


Night shifts are tough and will take a toll on your well-being if you aren’t careful. This is especially true for those accustomed to a traditional sleep schedule because adapting to night shifts requires various changes.

At the same time, night shifts offer learning opportunities and add value to your resume, especially in the healthcare industry. Invest your free time in learning new skills and polishing existing ones.

You can also learn more about the latest advances in medicine without compromising your personal life, as online education gives you the liberty to maintain a healthy balance.

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