Nurses: Working The Late Shifts?

As the wise Dolly Parton once sang “working 9-5, what a way to make a living”. Well Dolly… not all ways of making a living end at 5, just so you know!

Shift work can be hellish. You’re going to sleep as the rest of the world begins to stir and you don’t know what a regular sleeping routine is…!!

Night shifts have a detrimental effect on your health, both physical and mentally. There is also a higher rate of absenteeism and work related injuries among individuals who work shifts.

It confuses your body and can turn all your behaviours and patterns upside down. Shift work can have negative effects on concentration and can even lead to levels of depression.

It is not just the sleeping aspect of your world, but relationships and your social life can be non-existent and a feeling of isolation can take hold.

Some people cope better than others with working night shifts but everyone should have some mechanisms to adapt some sort of normality into their lives, even if they operate from dusk till dawn.

Here is a few tips to cope and manage your twilight hours.


  • If possible, avoid continuous night shifts. The more night shifts the more sleep deprived you can become. Split between night and day weeklong shifts if possible. Rotating shifts throughout the week can be harder on the body.
  • Keep your work environment brightly lit, as light can readjust your natural internal clock.
  • Have a nap before work to stay alert and focused, especially if you prefer not to sleep the day away. Or alternatively, break your sleeping into two sets of 4 hour sleeps, one when you get home and another before work.
  • Maintain a schedule- try and keep to a sleeping schedule that works for you. Having the same bed time throughout the week can reduce fatigue and naturally adjust your sleeping pattern.
  • Black out curtains in your room can help reduce the natural light you are exposed to and wearing sunglasses on the way home will also reduce the amount of light you intake. Natural light makes you more alert and can cause further problems sleeping.
  • Many shift workers can have a poor diet due to the imbalance and routine less work. Avoid sugary snacks and fatty foods nearing the time you are going to sleep i.e. the 2nd half of your shift. Caffeine and alcohol are also included in that one.
  • Keep yourself hydrated- drink as much water as possible to maintain cognitive and physical performance.
  • Some may need time to unwind after work, others might simply just hit the pillow. Avoid watching TV or using other electronic devices. The blue lights radiated in TV, computers and phones keeps you up longer. Go for a short stroll, read a book or mediation can be the perfect answer to settling down after a hectic night of work.
  • A bedtime ritual is also important, this can ensure that the body knows you are preparing for some sleepy time.
  • Arrange one day a week to spend time with friends or family, possibly on a day- off. Let them know you usually work nights and plan something for the evening (a perfect excuse to hit the pub or a cinema date)


Any other tips you can think of? Do you have your night shift sussed? Let us know your tips and remedies for ridding the body of the effects of night time shifts.

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