Working a night shift as a nurse for the first time can leave you feeling unprepared and unsure of what to expect. Whether you’re just not a night owl, or have just graduated from university, we hope our advice will reassure you, leaving you as prepared as you can be to tackle those night shifts.

A common misconception about night shifts is that night shift nurses typically are not as busy as day shift nurses – this is completely false. Although the hospitals may appear quieter than they are during the daytime, the duty of a night nurse remains the same and requires providing round-the-clock care, just like their daytime counterparts. Due to the hospitals being less busy overnight, one of the many positives this brings is, that you are able to spend more one-on-one time with your patients.

Keep reading to see our best tips and tricks to put you in the best position ahead of your night shift.

Drinking caffeinated beverages

When it comes to drinking caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee or energy drinks, it’s important to remember to drink these sparingly as drinking too much caffeine can quickly cause you to crash and may make you feel worse. Try and switch it up instead by drinking cold water, as this is more effective and keeps you hydrated. Take a read of this study that shows that sleep deprivation can cause dehydration.

Go outside during your break

In 2018, the Royal College of Nursing released a campaign called the 3Rs initiative, covering the need to rest, rehydrate and refuel. The campaign highlights the importance of taking proper breaks and looking after your safety and wellbeing whilst at work. If you are able to step outside during your break, getting some fresh air has many benefits to it such as feeling more refreshed, boosting your mood, lowering your heart rate and a noticeable increase in energy levels – all of which are vital to have, especially when working a night shift.

Eat nutritious foods

Having a healthy and balanced diet is crucial to getting through a busy shift. Make sure to always allow yourself a substantial amount of time to eat nutritious foods that release energy slowly such as bananas, oats, nuts, wholemeal bread, crackers, apples and fish such as tuna and salmon. Foods like these will keep your energy levels high throughout your entire shift and will keep you alert when adhering to your patients needs.

Relax the day before your night shift

Training your mind to adjust to night shift nursing can be challenging at first, but there are many ways to combat this and train your mind and body to deal with the time  more effectively. Building up to your first night shift, it would be advisable to begin altering your current sleep schedule by trying to stay up as late as possible in the evenings before your night shifts, and sleeping in throughout the morning/early afternoon. By keeping this consistent sleep schedule, you will slowly find yourself adjusting to your new routine and finding those late nights much easier.

Bring snacks

During the night, you may start to feel hungry and in need of an energy boost whilst you’re on a night shift, packing a light snack and staying clear of junk food and high carbohydrate snacks such as sugary sweet treats can make the shift easier. Healthy snacks such as vegetables and hummus, yoghurts and salads are all nutritious and more effective snacks for your body to help regulate your hunger throughout the night.

Remember your self-care

Ensuring you take care of yourself and maintain your self-care routine will be vital to keeping your motivation levels high and help you avoid burnout. There are many ways you can practice your self-care, whether it’s listening to calm music on your way home, writing in your journal, taking a relaxing bath or anything that helps you to decompress and relax after a busy shift. Staying in touch with friends and family is also just as important for your self-care. Those close connections play a huge part to your mental and emotional wellbeing as even though you may work night shifts, keeping up with those closest to you will help you remain grounded. Finally, exercising regularly can help you manage stress levels more effectively and can also be used as a tool to unwind or prepare for the day.

Create a restful sleep environment

After your night shift is over and you return home, it will be broad daylight and it may not be an ideal sleep environment for you. Investing in blackout curtains to block out sunlight, a pair of earplugs, eye mask and even a white noise machine will all be useful items to help minimise distractions whilst you sleep.

Remember, night shifts may seem daunting at first, there are many benefits and healthy coping mechanisms you can use to keep a positive outlook and mindset for yourself and your patients. For more information on our incredible nursing opportunities we currently have on offer, check out our live vacancies and apply directly today.

If you have any further questions regarding working night shifts, please reach out to our nursing team who can help answer any queries you may have.