I’ve been working the night shift for a few weeks now. It’s okay for now, but I have no idea how people do it long term. I work three 12-hour shifts a week as a full-time patient care tech. I’m pretty much wrecked after the second shift. I have been able to pinpoint some essentials that help me throughout the week. If you’re thinking of coming to the dark side (night shift), hopefully, you find these things to be helpful too.
Before each shift
This is pretty obvious, but it’s been kind of difficult for me to get a good sleep before that first shift. I have my schedule set up where I’m off for four days in a row. So by the time I have to go to work, my sleep schedule is somewhat normal. For my second and third shifts, I take melatonin gummies to help get to sleep faster and stay asleep.
Another obvious essential, but I found that not everyone drinks caffeine before their shifts. It must be some kind of superpower because I need coffee to stay awake and function at my fullest potential. I try to have my coffee an hour before I leave for work to give it time to kick in. If I don’t feel fully caffeinated before I leave, I take another cup with me.
During each shift
I’m bad at this because I’m paranoid and don’t want to pull my mask down to drink. Additionally, I may not get a chance to hydrate until break time because things get really busy.
I’m still unsure of what to call the meal of nightshift–midnight snack, maybe? Some of the nurses I work with pack stuff like spaghetti and chicken parm. I don’t really have an appetite for heavy meals, so I just pack a bunch of snacks instead:
- P3 Portable Protein Packs (by Lunchables)
- V8 +Energy
- Fruit cup
- Apple Sauce pouch
- Boom Chika Pop Kettle Corn
Cleansing wipes and deodorant
After turning patients for a few hours and running around the unit, it’s pretty easy to get sweaty. I keep wipes and deodorant in my bag so I can freshen up at break time.
After each shift
Sometimes I’m still wide awake when I get home, so I take two melatonin gummies to help me get to sleep. I can usually sleep for at least 6 hours when I take them.
Before starting night shifts, I read that eating a balanced breakfast is important so your body doesn’t wake up due to hunger. I eat a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, along with yogurt or granola.
As I mentioned before, sometimes it’s hard to stay hydrated during work. I try to make up for it at home by drinking a bottle of water before sleep or keeping one at my bedside.
Sleeping during the day is hard because almost everyone else is awake. Kids are playing outside and the landscapers are out doing their thing. I keep earplugs at the bedside, although I don’t always need them.
My bedroom window is small, so I only needed one. I got a good one from Target– I think it gives 99% of darkness. Sometimes it’s really bright outside and sunlight still manages to make its way inside so I do have an eye mask just in case.