Fun Fact: Working while everyone else is asleep can turn you into the walking dead.
Night Shift work, some persons call it the bane of Nursing, others seem to enjoy it. But the most important part of it all irrespective of wherether you hate or love it is that the Nurses who are tasked to care for their patients all night long also need sleep.
Lets be honest, Night Shifts tend to werck havock on the natural rythms of our bodies causing a misalignment on the rest of our body’s functioning where sleep deprivation is a factor, and as Nurses this can be a very dangerous factor where you have to practice when you havent gotten enough sleep or rest. Being sleep deprived is also especially difficult because we are not good judges of how afected our thought processes are when we are sleep deprived. Night shifts cause you to battle against your natural rhythms by trying to be alert when you are programmed to be sleeping. Similarly, when you go home after a night shift, the cues from your internal body clock and daytime light exposure tell you to be awake and active.
Know that you can make mistakes when working nightshifts. “One of the biggest mistakes nurses can make when working night shift is to not sleep before a shift. Most studies on this topic indicate a small portion of nurses simply do not sleep before going into night shift, which is very dangerous".
Tips for nurses on how to best perform at their jobs when working the night shift:
1. Manage sleep patterns: Some people can work at night with no problem at all, while others experience sleep deprivation and fatigue. This is because the human body is designed to sleep at night-time. Many of the processes in your body that are active in the daytime slow down at night to prepare you for sleep. At night, the circadian pacemaker releases the sleep hormone melatonin from the pineal gland, which causes you to feel less alert and raises your desire to sleep.
2. Control light exposure: Exposure to light triggers chemical events in the circadian pacemaker that affects your sleep and wake cycles. For example, melatonin is released as it gets dark in the evening to make you feel drowsy, while melatonin is suppressed and cortisol elevated by the morning light to make you feel more awake.
Beware of exposure to blue light emitted from digital devices, such as your smartphone, tablet, or television, before you go to bed after a night shift. Research has suggested that blue light knocks our circadian rhythms off-kilter, which signals to your brain that it is daytime and results in poorer sleep quality.
3. Watch your diet: Night shift workers are more likely to experience metabolic syndrome and have a 29 percent increased risk of becoming overweight or obese due to poor diet and the disruption of the body clock, planning your meals can help you to stay alert during your working hours and be more relaxed when you need to sleep.
4. Take a nap: Taking a nap can become an essential element of working safely overnight. While a short nap before you start your shift can help to combat fatigue, a nap during your break may be vital for maintaining alertness and remaining vigilant.
5. Use caffeine wisely and Judiciously: Caffeine is a stimulant. When used carefully, your daily dose of coffee can help you to remain alert throughout a shift. However, improper use can cause gastrointestinal upsets and muscle shakes.
6. Limit voluntary overtime hours: Your body needs rest, take the time for it, try to set aside a block of 7–9 hours to dedicate to sleep after a night shift, remember that the more days in a row that you have been working through the night, the more sleep debt you will likely have accrued. Repaying some of the sleep debt that you accumulate as quickly as possible will help you to recover sooner.
7. Have a bedtime routine that doesn’t include alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs: Yes, alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it diminishes sleep quality and disturbs the deep stages of sleep, which will leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day and Nicotine is a stimulant and can therefore cause you to experience difficulties in getting to sleep.
8. Do not delay going to bed: The longer you delay going to bed, the more awake you are likely to become, not to mention staying away from activities that make you feel more alert until the hours before your next shift.
Drowsy driving accidents are a major hazard associated with shift work. According to the most recent statistics, midnight to 6am is one of the most dangerous periods of the day for drowsy driving. If your workplace does not have a room where you can nap undisturbed, you can try dozing for a few minutes in your car before leaving your facility, or if you begin to feel drowsy behind the wheel, pull over at the next available opportunity where you can park safely and nap for a few minutes.
Every person is different, so finding the right combination of techniques that suit you best may take time. Applying some of the above strategies may help you on your way to coping better with working at night and ensuring that you get the right amount of sleep to function properly.
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