As promised I want to share with you my experience of my first night shifts and give you any tips I have picked up during the process. I will be referring to the questions I asked in my previous post on this so check it out if you haven’t already!
1. Sleep! I was working during the day the day before so I slept normally that night with the plan of staying in bed until around lunchtime the next day. However, I am staying with family at the moment and I was woken up at 06:30am by my niece! I couldn’t get back to sleep so I just had a lazy day doing a bit of uni work and watching a Christmas film. This meant that by the time I finished by shift in the morning I had been awake for 27 hours! I then found that I woke up after only 3 or 4 hours sleep. This repeated for the following night. After my final shift I made sure I woke up at lunchtime and kept myself busy in the afternoon so I could sleep normally at night. I didn’t need to worry though, I was so tired I had to stop my eyes from closing all evening!
2. Breakfast or dinner? Before my shift I made sure to eat a big yummy dinner for example, spaghetti Bolognese or stew, and when I got home I had a big bowl of yoghurt and granola before going to sleep.
3. Snacks! My salad the first night was not very appealing at 2:15am! You will crave comfort food and treats to keep you going. Nuts, chocolate and breakfast bars were a must! The nurses station was always stocked up with sweets too! Not the healthiest, but you definitely need the boost.
4. There was no countdown to midnight and I did not turn into a pumpkin! I don’t think I got a true reflection on how night shifts differ to day shifts by being in ED. From my understanding, on wards the lights go off and nights are generally quieter so the routine is slightly different and you are able to get jobs done that haven’t been done during the day. In ED the lights near go off as people continue to come in throughout the night. I did find around 4am to be the quietest period so we had a chance to restock areas ready for another busy day and night, but overall we were always busy. I found that keeping busy was the key for staying awake and that when I stopped on my break tiredness began to creep in.
5. Adjusting back to normal. In order to give myself the best chance of adjusting back to normal quickly, I made sure to get up at lunchtime and keep myself busy in the afternoon so I could sleep normally that night. The following day I woke up as I normally would and, aside from feeling a little tired, I adjusted well.
I originally said I was doing two nights in a row but this changed into three. I actually think this was to my advantage as it gave my body a chance to get into the night shift routine. I now feel more prepared for my night shifts in the future and I know that plenty of rest, sleep and food is the key!