Spring fever. Gone.
I feel like hibernating all over again.
My mind is a bit fuzzy... sleep deprivation will do that to you.
Working nights is hard on the body, but there's no doubt that the first night back is the hardest. I know some who nap before coming in that first night, but my body just won't do it. I try to sleep in for a couple of hours the morning before because that seems to help a bit, but there's nothing quite like being up all day and then expected to function on a highly-skilled nursing level all night as well. To those patients who are sad to see me go, anxious that the next nurse will be a different personality, I am quick to point out, "I am a waste of space after 7:00am... you really wouldn't want me here!" My brain clocks out before my hands can fumble through the motion of swiping my tag.
A few night-shift survival mechanisms that have helped me to make it through:
1. Sleep when you can on your days off... your body will thank you! Sometimes it's hard to switch back and get to bed at a reasonable hour when you're coming off a string of nights, but it makes a difference in the long run.
2. Get regular exercise on your days off... being in good shape is a huge boost, your energy level will be higher all the time.
3. Bring something to munch on in the car on the way home. That drive can be a killer. Literally. For some reason, having something in my mouth keeps my eyelids open.
4. Don't rely too much on caffeine. I've done it both ways, and my body seems to regulate between sleep and awake much more efficiently without. Can't seem to give up that one last cup of coffee... but I've lived on as many as 8-10 cups a day. Say it with me, "Mod-er-a-tion."
5. It's ok to use a sleep aid once in a while, and for some of us, a little Tylenol PM or Benadryl will do the trick. If you're an Ambien advocate, so be it. Just try not to get hooked! And be aware that you may feel a little groggy when waking. It's never been bad for me, and sometimes what I really need is the good, solid (vs. restless, dream-filled) sleep provided with a little medicinal assistance.
6. I'm all about the old-fashioned ear plugs and room-darkening shades. Some people can't stand the feeling of the plugs in their ears, but with boisterous children in the house, I find they're invaluable. And a dark room is awesome, almost tricks your body into believing it IS night-time (key word, almost).
7. Give it time. Eventually you'll get used to those bags under your eyes, and the dull throbbing at the base of your skull. People will stop asking if you're ok, because now it's just the way you look. It's alright... you're a night-shifter... and night people RULE!
Or at least we like to think so, in our delirious, sleeping-while-sitting-up state.