Working night shift is NOT easy.
Famous quotes from others “Nightshift takes years off of your life” “Working night shift is equivalent to smoking cigarettes” (that one cracks me up) “Ive gained so much weight since I’ve been on night shift” “My depression has been so bad since I’ve been on nights” and on and on..
There could be truth to many of these statements. I’ve personally seen my friends not do well mentally and physically on night shift. Shoot, I was never a night person myself. I truly am a morning person at heart.
I started working night shift at the beginning of nursing school to help me make a little bit more money and to help me schedule my clinical days and class time better. I had to work full time during nursing school, I had no choice there as I was going to nursing school after 25 years of age and didn’t have the option of living at home and having no bills. Once I got my first nursing job, as majority of my other class mates, night shift was where you had to start because day shift positions were never open as the more senior people got the opportunity to choose to work day shift.
Once I moved back to Michigan and was hired into my second nursing job, the only schedule available for new staff was rotating shifts. Fit all the above quotes into the rotating schedule lifestyle because they all stand true! Rotating shift was probably the worst schedule I have had to take on and I did it for 1 year. After a year, i had the opportunity to go to straight nights (again, day shift is not available unless you’ve worked there for at least 5 years) and so I chose to do that. Believe it or not it has been so much better than rotating and I feel much more normal than when I was switching back and forth from day to night.
Working nights is still hard. The hardest part when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that the shift CAN be quieter (NOT always, especially when you have a very sick or an extremely delirious patient!). The increased down time creates signals in your brain that just say eat, eat all the snacks, eat some more, just taste some things. This is how the pounds can easily add on (along with if you aren’t getting enough sleep).
Being healthy and on nights is 100% possible and 100% in your control!
Here are the things that I do to keep healthy while working nights as a nurse
- Meal planning-write a weekly plan of your meals and snacks and grocery shop to last during your stretch of work shifts
- Meal prepping-cook food ahead of time so in between shifts you just pack it into a container and go
- Pack extra snacks that are healthy in case of emergency hunger moments or when there are a ton of unhealthy options in the break room, you can always grab your healthy snack to eat while everyone else is eating as well. -Rx Bars, fruit, almond butter and nuts are my favorite snacks
- SAY NO. You do not have to give into temptation if you are not wanting to. Eat your yummy food you brought. Its not that big of a deal.
- Drinking plenty of water-Super important and even I need to remind myself regularly to do this!
- Have black out curtains to allow for substantial rest during the day
- Phone on silent during the day-No interruptions. You don’t call your friends and family at 1am, you do not need to be bothered at 1pm.
To my fellow nurses out there stuck on night shift and feeling unhealthy, turn the stigma around. You have full control over how you feel and the health of your body. Don’t make your schedule be the reason, make a plan using some of the tips I shared above and even add some of your own. If there is something you do but I did not mention it above, please share it with me in the comments, I’d love to hear it :-).