Maintaining a proper sense of wellbeing and balance is one of the toughest challenges for a nurse. With night shifts playing such a strong toll on your health, it is crucial to give proper attention to the quality of your sleep. If it sounds like mission impossible, there are several things you can do that will help you make this process easier.
For starters, try to look at sleep as something profoundly restorative and a crucial dimension of your overall health. Cheating on yourself by saying you can go through night shifts without taking care of your sleep is like depriving yourself of fuel to run on.
The average amount of sleep we need per night is between 7 to 8 hours, though quality plays a huge part in getting the most out of it. How do you make sure you get a nice, restorative sleep every time you are coming off a night shift?
1. Avoid Night Shift Coffee As Much As Possible
This one is a biggie since night shifts can be a challenge. When working throughout the night requires you not only to be awake but also constantly focused, it is no wonder that many nurses sip from their coffee mugs all night long. But the truth is, no matter how much you get used to it, coffee will always affect your body and most of all, your sleep.
The only thing you do not need when you have to skip a good old night sleep is to put your body through the extremes that coffee brings. Energy crashes are not fun at 3 am, especially when you are still left with some hours of work.
Try to reduce your intake of coffee to as little as you can and maybe introduce some healthier ”staying awake” strategies – go for a green tea, some bites of dark chocolate or even a little energizing exercise to refresh your body.
Since we are talking about it, we cannot skip the power of exercise over the quality of your sleep. Exercising is a great way to keep your body happy and moving, which ultimately translates into easier and more restorative sleep and overall body functions.
It might be difficult to start with, but it will well be worth it. Try implementing a short daily routine of yoga or pilates during a 10 minutes break at work or even when you get back home. You will be able to fall asleep much easier, and your sleep will be deeper.
3. Cut the Midnight Binging
Eating late at night is a real drag for your body. With food bringing comfort to a tired body that is forced to stay awake, you can easily find yourself indulging in various night snacking. Not only will food never be able to replace sleep – which is what you are craving for when reaching for that donut, but it only makes it ever worse. A human body is simply not capable of processing all those heavy foods at night.
So instead of turning to some comfort food to keep you warm during sleepless night shifts, try keeping a very clean diet, especially at night. Go for healthier snacks that are light and nutritive and skip the heavy carbs and fats. For some extra power, indulge with some freshly squeezed fruits and veggies juice that you can prepare before leaving for work.
Working hard all night long does not mean you come home and fall asleep the second you lay down. The truth is being tired can make it real hard to go to bed. A great way to cut this strong discomfort is a good old meditation right before bed. Go for some relaxing music and simply try to empty your mind and focus on your breathing. You will fall asleep like a baby.
5. Pay Back Sleep Debt
Missing out on a regular night sleep means your body will be looking for ways to get back what its craving for. Give yourself this chance by creating space to pay back your sleep debts. Go for some short power naps whenever you have ten clean minutes.
Also, make sure you properly take advantage of your weekends and free days and make a commitment to let your body indulge with sleep.
Sleep is huge for you – do not let it pass you by. Share your sleep tips in the comments section below.
This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.