Acclimating to the night shift is no easy task, but it's something that happens frequently when working in healthcare. Whether you're an ER doctor or an assistant in a retirement home, someone has to keep people safe in the off-hours. Thankfully, there are several ways to make the transition to the night shift easier. The next time you get switched to overnights, try following some of these tips:
The luckiest healthcare workers get a day of rest before schedule transitions. If you have time to make the change, start adjusting your routine as soon as possible. Get up, get dressed, and drive yourself to work. Remember, traffic influences your driving time — you may discover your new hours cut your commute in half! Once you return home, find certain activities that will help you wind down. Something as simple as a pair of headphones can help you relax before going to bed without waking up the rest of your household.
Being active all night doesn't just impact your sleep schedule. You'll find your eating habits will become disrupted, too. These disruptions can have a major impact on your health, so be proactive by preparing a few filling, healthy meals in advance. The last thing you want to do is hit the fast food joint for a greasy breakfast burrito right before you go to sleep. Fresh fruit, whole grain snacks, soup and hard-boiled eggs are just a few healthy choices. They'll fill you with nutrients without causing indigestion that might rob you of sleep.
All too often, the people around you will miss your regular routines more than you do. Unfortunately, they may wind up waking you up before you've had enough rest. Children find it especially difficult to make these kinds of transitions, so be sure to make it easy by giving them an estimation of when you'll be sleeping and when you'll wake up. Then, be sure to stick to it. No one will take your time seriously if you're willing to get up every five minutes.
A schedule also helps you regulate your time. Set aside enough hours for sleeping based on your traditional needs. Get out of bed once the alarm goes off, and immediately start getting involved with things. You'll feel less tired if you stay active than if you allow yourself to nap continuously throughout the day. The biggest benefit, of course, is enjoying more quality time with friends and family.
You may stumble inside feeling dead on your feet, but things will change once you're lying in a sun-filled bedroom filled with the sounds of your busy family. You can't expect the world to stop once your schedule changes, so prepare your bedroom accordingly. Blackout shades effectively block the sun, while fans and ear plugs can help keep your room quiet. Some healthcare workers struggle with calming down enough to sleep during the day. Using sleep aids, like melatonin, for a limited time can help your body shift to a new circadian rhythm.
Yes, you'll be especially tired the first time you get out of bed. This should be expected. But you can avoid continuous sluggishness by creating effective habits early on. Exercise is one of the most helpful ways to get your body used to working the night shift. Whether you wake up and bike to the gym for an hour of heavy lifting or you perform a few yoga poses while you sit on your floor sipping tea, this simple practice will help you improve your job performance. You'll also clear your mind and help your body calm down once you get a chance to lay down.
While used mostly by patients who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, healthcare workers transitioning to nights have found personal benefits from sun boxes and other full-spectrum light devices. Used once or twice a day, these lights can regulate your melatonin levels naturally, leading to more satisfying sleep, more energy and less irritation!
Switching to nights doesn't have to signal the end of a satisfying life. Once you adjust to your new schedule, you'll find spending time with friends and family is often more fulfilling.