Nursing Voices

Friday, March 16, 2007

Watch that First Night. It's a Big One.

Spring fever. Gone.

Winter. Back.

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.



Student Nurse Nancy said...

I've heard a lot of night shifters talk about the "dreaded 4am hour". Is it true that the body just wants to shut down at 4am??

apgaRN said...

4 am is a killer. That's probably the yawning, poking your eyes out hour... whereas 5 am usually finds us pretty slaphappy and if we're not running-around-busy, talking about things we can only say out loud at "5 am."

AtYourCervix said...

Yes, 4 am is a killer hour. But then, "the bus" pulls up at 5am, and keeps you hopping til 7am and day shift rolls around.

I worked nights for the first 4-5 year of my nursing career. It worked out ok before I had my youngest child (who is now 3). After her birth, I just couldn't get enough sleep to work nights and be her mommy. I'm on a day/eve rotation now, and I like that so much better. And so does my body!!

Hehehe, but look at the time I'm typing this -- 2am. Once a night shifter, always......

may said...

i sleep in the closet, on the floor everything you can ask for is there :) dark? check. quiet? check. nice, flat surface for aching back? check.


Iris said...

I just got off the night shift this morning....

I do swing shifts, so I bounce from days to nights back and forth all in a right sucks.......

Nurse M said...

I agree.. first night is always the hardest as I always have trouble sleeping that day. I usually don't have any problems napping, except when I know that I need to sleep. Loved the mechanisms!
1. The problem is that I am a rotator and my body has no clue what it is supposed to do. I find when I work nights and I am catching up on my days off I sleep the oddest hours. I can take a simple nap that lasts for hours and hours (even tricking my boyfriend into thinking that I must be going in to work if I am sleeping that long). I think it is the idea that my body has no clue when to sleep and when to be awake so when I can sleep it checks out.
2. Exercise. Oh, how I should exercise. I am always too darn tired!
4. Caffeine. mmm.
5. I do like sleep aids but I find I can't take them if I am going back into work.
6. I do wear ear plugs. I need to invest in a mask I normally just sleep with a blanket covering my eyes.
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!"
Love it! Good to know that these bags will never go away!!! I love when people ask me at 830am... did you work last night? What does it look like? I look like hell, but thanks for pointing that out :)

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