1. How do I fuel myself?
People often don’t feel as hungry on night shifts and can even feel nauseous at times, which makes them less eager to eat on shift.
Keep this in mind when preparing for your first shift. Always eat a meal before starting work and if you don’t think you can handle a full meal, bring along some healthy snacks to keep you going through the night. It’s best to eat something regularly throughout the shift. And as tempting as it may be to snack on chocolate throughout the night, eating healthy will make you feel much better on your shift.
You’re also not going to feel like cooking much before and after your shift so it’s best to plan ahead with snacks you can grab on the way out the door or simple meals that can be prepared in advance.
Just as important is keeping yourself hydrated - with water, not just caffeine!
2. How do I get through the shift?
No matter how much sleep you’ve managed to grab, you will go through phases of feeling tired. This is when you are more likely to make mistakes.
Night shifts may also not be as busy as your day job, which may actually make you feel even more tired. When you’re particularly struggling, it’s a good idea to take a break with the team. For example, go for a walk - it’s important to keep active on night shifts. Chat with your colleagues so that you’re not isolating yourself (night shifts are particularly bad for this) and, as above, keep yourself healthy with plenty of water.
3. How will I get home?
If you live far away from your place of work, consider staying in hospital accommodation. No, it won’t be the nicest place to stay but it will be much, much safer than driving back home sleep deprived. Accidents can and do happen. Your reaction time will be significantly slower and you are more likely to nod off. You could also consider public transport or taking a cab to get back home if you don’t want to stay at the accommodation.
4. What should I do after my shift?
It’s always tempting to make plans for the last day of your shift. However, it is good to remember that this isn’t just a ‘day off’ - you will need time to recuperate after nights. The last thing you may want is to be surrounded by people.
Instead, aim to have a relaxing day and don’t put any pressure on yourself. Don’t push yourself to use the ‘free time’ to do chores or do more work - this will only make you feel worse, and it may take you much longer to get your sleep-rhythm back to normal. You’re also more likely to make mistakes if you try to do some ‘life admin’ while you’re sleep deprived.
And here's an image to sum it all up:
All the best - we have faith in you!
By Dr Gunjan Sharma