As a traveling nurse, you’re living in a strange city and sleeping in a different bed. You may be asked to work the night shift and likely have changed your sleeping habits. Studies have shown people are sleeping less over time and sleeping longer on weekends and non-work days, suggesting they’re getting insufficient sleep, and then attempting to “catch up.”
Nurses working on the night shift or a rotating shift rarely get optimal amount of sleep and some studies have shown night shift workers get one to four hours less sleep than normal when they were working nights. Sleep loss is cumulative and your sleep debt may be significant enough to impair decision-making, initiative, execution and vigilance.
The term for this is Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) with symptoms such as lack of energy, irritability, depression and insomnia. Nurses who suffer also complain of excessive sleepiness and feeling unrefreshed after waking. During sleep your body removes toxic waste from your brain and your brain extracts meanings from the day’s events, improving your performance.
The consequences of insufficient sleep are significant, including reduced creativity, slowed reaction time and an increased risk of neurological problems and Type 2 diabetes. Here are some tips that will help you to sleep better and avoid working tired.
Unfortunately, many of us live busy lives and it feels like you can get more done in less time if you just sleep a little less. However, if you make sleep a priority, you’ll find you have greater creativity and productivity. Limit the number of night shifts to four in a row and be sure you have 48 hours off before you begin another work schedule.
Although caffeinated beverages can help improve your alert state, it’s important to avoid them up to six hours before going to sleep or you’ll have trouble getting quality sleep.
If you are working the night shift, consider using a light designed for seasonal affective disorder during your “morning” time to help regulate your melatonin production. Use a sleep mask at night to ensure you’re sleeping in complete darkness and your body makes enough melatonin so you get quality rest.
If you’re feeling tired or sleepy, ask a colleague to partner with you to complete tasks. If you continue to feel fatigued over days, you’re likely not getting quality rest. Some employers approve a short nap during breaks, especially when working the night shift.
Exercise can reduce stress, help you sleep more soundly and improve your health. Consider riding a bike, walking or jogging.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. This helps your body maintain a rhythm, making it easier for you to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning.
Your health and wellness