Surviving Night Shift

So you just got assigned your first night shift. Maybe you’re an EMT like I was when I did my first night. Maybe you’re a nurse or a medical student, a PA or anyone in between. The fact of the matter is you are about to embark on a journey that relatively few have had to tackle. 

Working overnight is tough, especially in real life. See, in a perfect world the day before your shift you would not work and you could sleep in late, then you could nap in the afternoon, then you would wake up well rested and ready to start your shift. Well, as anyone who has traveled and gotten jet-lag knows, it never works out like that. 

The ugly truth is you will likely be up the whole day before your night shift. Then you will try to take a nap in the afternoon but won’t be able to sleep that long, and such is life. 

So how should you best prepare for night shift? 

Well, the answer has a few parts. 

1.    The above is not wrong, you do want to have an afternoon nap, but you won’t be able to accomplish that without this.

2.    Caffeine is your friend. There is caffeine use, then caffeine abuse (hey I’m not here to judge lol). The truth is using a stimulant like caffiene can be a great way to trick your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up. This is especially true when you combine this with just waking up from a nap with your eye mask on. Throw your coffee in a mug that will keep it warm for your shift like this one and get ready to pack for number 3.

3.    Nourishment is also key. Don’t forget that while you are up at night, your body will be using much more energy than if you were sleeping. Be sure to bring healthy food and snacks that won’t bog you down. Avoid high sugar, high carb foods and opt for proteins and fresh vegetables. If you’re wondering how those stay fresh overnight, then you NEED one of these!

4.    Hydration nation. I am not sure why this is a thing but it is SO easy to get dehydrated overnight. Bring your hydro flask and keep yourself drinking water!

5.    Filter your blue light. There is some evidence to suggest that blue light makes it harder for us to fall asleep. I really like these blue light glasses and you can actually get 15% off with the code “themedlife”

So you made it through night one. If this is a string of nights, head home, put that eyemask on and close the blackout curtains to sleep for a full 8 hours. Some people like to use melatonin for this. Rinse and repeat the above until: 

Your last night has finished! Congratulations on surviving. How do you get back to days? Here is my relatively painless schedule. 

Go to bed right when you get home, no phone time or anything like that, just sleep with that eye mask but here is the catch. You NEED to set an alarm for 4 hours from now. This is just enough sleep to help get you through the next day. 

When the alarm goes off fight the urge to sleep and get up, make yourself coffee. Again, we are using caffeine to our advantage here. You now need to stay up until your usual bed time. This is painful, it will feel like a hangover the whole day, but I promise if you follow this, when you wake up at your normal time the next day, you will feel rested and back on your normal schedule. 

What are your secrets to night shift? Comment down below!

-Adam Goodcoff


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