Here at Caring for Care we understand the challenge health care professionals face when they need to work the night shift. In fact, during our training sessions it is a common area of concern for many delegates. Over the years we have amassed a wealth of tips to help you say healthy, focused and on top form when you are working the night shift.

Establish a sleeping pattern

Most people worry how they will catch up on sleep after a night shift, but many forget that getting enough sleep before a shift is just as important. If you head into a long night shift without enough sleep, you may struggle to stay focused, which could lead to mistakes being made. The best way to overcome this issue is to build your schedule around sleep. Try to put other activities in your life on the back burner during the night shift period and arrange anything important around your sleeping pattern.

Stay hydrated

This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many health care professionals struggle with headaches and fatigue because they have not been drinking enough. For those of you who are planning on sleeping straight after a shift, you might worry that drinking too much later in the night will mean you need to wake for toilet trips. However, keeping well hydrated will improve your energy levels and ensure that when you do wake up you feel fully refreshed.

Avoid too much caffeine

Most of us reach for a coffee to help us stay alert, as the caffeine is great for a quick boost. The odd cup of tea or coffee is fine during your quick breaks, but try to avoid anything towards the end of the shift. Drinking anything containing caffeine in the hours leading up to end of your shift may lead to you struggling to fall asleep. There are plenty of decaffeinated options available which will still allow you to enjoy a nice warm drink at break time. Energy drinks are full of sugar and will leave you feeling tired once the initial sugar rush is over. If you are looking for a cold drink, stick to water or sugar-free diluted juices.

Eat healthily

Many people starting a night shift for the first time worry how they will manage a healthy diet. The trick is to have a healthy, balanced meal before your shift starts. This will give you a long burst of energy and ensure you do not feel the urge to reach for sugary snacks. When you are feeling tired your body is likely to crave foods which are high in fat and sugar, because of the quick boost of energy they provide. Remove the temptation by filling up on healthier options. Try to bring some pre-prepared snacks with you like tubs of nuts, vegetable sticks and fruit. Once your shift finishes avoid having a high-calorie meal, instead think of this meal as a breakfast-sized portion.

Stay comfortable

If you feel tired, the last thing your body will want is to feel uncomfortable as well. Give your body the comfort it needs for your busy shift with comfortable shoes, which will support your tired and aching feet. If you wear contact lenses, consider changing to glasses during your shift, as it will help reduce any soreness from the over wearing of lenses.

Stretch your legs

During the night shift you will probably be looking forward to breaktime so that you can have a little rest. But, one of the best ways to reboot your energy levels is to take a short walk and do some stretches. It may be easier if you build it into your routine, perhaps you could walk to the cafeteria or have a stroll outside in the fresh air.

Monitor your body

Those who regularly work a night shift will know the risks it can place on your health, such as insomnia, high blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes. You should monitor your body and ensure you are aware of any detrimental effects the night shift may be having on you both physically and mentally. Looking after yourself is key to providing the best care possible and helping you enjoy your job. Working nights will often mean you are asleep during daylight hours, so you could end up deficient in Vitamin D, which carries a range of health risks. To ensure your body is not suffering you should undergo yearly blood tests to check your nutrient levels and fasting glucose results.

Use public transport

Figures have shown that fatigue is one of the biggest causes of crashes on our roads. It is likely that you will be feeling tired after your night shift, so instead of winding down the windows or turning the music up to help you stay awake, opt for the ease of public transport.

Relax after your shift

Health care is one of the most rewarding professions but it is also mentally challenging. It is common for those working in health care to think about events during their shift, meaning they struggle to rest and sleep. It can help to have a quick chat with a family member or friend after your shift. Talk over anything which is worrying you, it will help put your mind at ease so that you can enjoy some rest.

Make friends with co-workers

The key to working a great night shift is team work and great communication. It is very common that during the night your health care facility will be running with fewer staff and managers. By establishing great relationships with those on your shift, you will enjoy a sense of camaraderie and will pick each other up when you feel the pressure.

We hope these tips will help prepare you for an enjoyable and productive night shift. You may already be aware of some of the tips, but hopefully now you will have the knowledge needed to put them into practice. If you are interested in finding out more about the health care training we provide or have any questions please contact us.