While some are sleeping, others come alive. Whether it’s pulling an all-nighter, finishing a Netflix series, or working the night shift, we all have our reasons for staying up late. As a new nurse adjusting to the night shift, I’ll be sharing some work-related ways to keep that energy up through the night. Here are 6 tips that have helped me so far:
1. But first, sleep
If you really expect to stay up all night, it’s important to get some quality rest before coming to work. This should be a no-brainier; it’s the most important key in staying awake. Beyond that, it’s not safe for nurses to practice on no sleep. Do it for the patients!
Find a rhythm that works for you. It may take a month or more to get used to, but over time your body will adjust. Maintaining circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) as much as possible helps.
Invest in some blackout curtains or a sleep mask. A dark bedroom can trick the body into thinking it’s nighttime, and may produce some melatonin (the body’s sleep hormone). Neat!
2. Time your caffeine correctly
Coffee, tea, or diet Mountain Dew?…pick your favorite caffeinated drink, and have a cup at the beginning of work and mid-shift. Have a cup of water, too, because caffeine is a diuretic. Disclaimer: “drinking caffeine for energy” is controversial because the energy boost is short-lived.
Keep in mind that up to 400mg of caffeine daily is safe for healthy adults. 1 cup of coffee contains 90 mg, tea 24 mg, and 12 oz Mountain Dew has 54 mg.
Caffeine works by binding to the body’s adenosine receptors, which bind throughout the day and create a sleepy feeling. Caffeine molecules prevent adenosine from doing so, and give dopamine (which increases attentiveness, alertness,learning) a chance to increase!
Be aware that a large amount of caffeine may cause a “rebound effect” as it wears off, and the energy boost is short-term. To prevent an influx of sleepy feelings all at once, a steady intake of caffeine (in smaller amounts) may keep the adenosine at bay. Caffeine at the beginning of work and mid-shift increases your chances of sleeping when you get home, as opposed to having it at the end!
Taking a short break away from the unit, for the purpose of exercise, increases mental alertness, bloodflow, and overall energy level. Clock out and walk the halls, take the stairs, or do some squats for a few minutes. If your hospital or facility has a gym, take advantage of the weights or cardio machines!
Whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and iron energize the body and keep that metabolism going. Try to incorporate many nutrient-rich foods in small amounts throughout the night!
Greasy, high-fat and high-calorie foods have a tendency to induce food coma and naps in large amounts. I am guilty of eating pizza most nights, so I’d be the first to admit I’m eating some high-fat foods. However, by adding healthy omega fats (fish) and monunsaturated fats (peanut butter) my energy levels don’t take a fall even though I’m eating some “bad” foods too. Listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly, but know that “healthy” foods will fuel your body better than anything else.
5. Stimulate your mind
Write notes, chart, and chat with co-workers about life and various topics. Actively thinking will prevent rest. As nurses, we are behind the same nurse’s station for 12 hours at a time, and it’s hard not to find a social version of yourself in that setting. If you’re not normally a talker, challenge yourself to strike up a conversation. Value the down-time when it comes, and get to know the people on your team. Talk about current medical research, or personal life and hobbies if you feel comfortable.
6. Stay in the light
Turn the lights on. Look at bright colors. Prevent that melatonin from forming! Staying in a light environment will keep your body from thinking it’s nap-time.
Please comment below and share your own tips for staying up late during the night shift!
Thanks for reading!