Advanced Practice

How to Cope With and Thrive Working the Graveyard Shift

If you are planning on working as a healthcare traveler, you may be working the overnight shift, also known as the graveyard shift. Although physical, speech and occupations therapists will almost always work day shift, nurses are needed around the clock. Whether you will be new to working overnight or have been doing it for years, it can be a challenge to work through the night.


Challenges of Working Overnight

Working overnight can take a toll on your health if you are not careful. That is why it is so critical to be sure you get enough sleep. The natural circadian rhythm for most people involves sleeping at night and being awake during the day. When that sleep schedule is disrupted it can cause some problems. For example, people who work the overnight shift are at risk for shift work sleep disorder. According to the National Sleep Foundation, symptoms of the disorder include disrupted sleep schedules, which may result in excessive sleepiness or insomnia. Additional symptoms include depressed mood and reduced performance at work.


Way to Increase Good Sleep

While it is clear working overnight can lead to trouble sleeping, there are several things you can do to improve your quality of sleep. When you are going to sleep in the morning after your shift, be sure to make your bedroom a sleep friendly environment. For example, put up dark curtains or shades, which block out the sunlight. Keep the room cool, which makes it easier to sleep than a room too warm. Try to block out daytime noises from neighbors. Use a white noise machine, turn on a fan or wear earplugs to minimize noise. There are other things you can do to get enough sleep if you are working overnight. Try to develop a sleep time routine, just as you would if you were going to bed at night. Although coffee is often a staple for night shift workers, try to limit the amount of caffeinated drinks you have a few hours before you plan on going to sleep. It is also helpful to go to sleep at the same time each morning. While you may not do this on your days off, at least try to do it on the mornings you get off work. Additionally, try to avoid working both night shifts and day shifts. Switching back and forth is even harder to deal with than just working night shifts the entire time. Following a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating healthy and limiting alcohol also helps. If your overall health is good, working night shift may be easier to deal with than if you have an unhealthy lifestyle. Don’t forget to get some sunshine when you can. Working nights and sleeping during the day may limit how much sunshine you get. This is especially true during the winter months when it gets dark outside early. Getting a few minutes of sunshine each day can help wake you up and brighten your mood.

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