Close up of a male night shift nurse in a robe yawning

Sleep Strategies for Night Shift Nurses to Get Better Rest

Finding sleep strategies you can rely on as a nurse is a game changer for getting better rest! Many nurses have experienced the reality of night shift nursing and find themselves asking, How do you sleep well when working the night shift? 

You’re working odd hours that throw off your natural body clock, and when you don’t sleep well you’re not able to function optimally at work, which will ultimately lead to burnout.

Quality sleep is SO important, especially for nurses whose job can be both physically and mentally taxing. In order to recover between shifts and to maintain your overall health, finding ways to get some better shut eye is a must. 

As difficult as it may seem to achieve adequate rest while working nights as a nurse, the good news is that it’s very doable! After making a few adjustments and applying these sleep strategies for night shift nurses below, you’ll be on your way to better rest and more energy!

Try These Top Sleep Strategies for Night Shift Nurses 

Invest in Night Shift Nurse Essentials

Many nurses swear by certain essentials that are a lifesaver for getting better sleep when you work the night shift. Here are the most popular recommendations.

  • Black out curtains: These block out the sunlight and provide a dark, pitch black sleep environment, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep during the day.
  • Eye mask: Another way to block out the light and help your body transition into sleep mode. 
  • White noise machine: If you sleep while others are in the house during the day and it gets loud or disruptive, or if your bedroom window is near a busy street, this is perfect to help drown out any noise.
  • Ear plugs: Working as another noise barrier, ear plugs are helpful if you’re a light sleeper.
  • Weighted blanket: The added pressure of the blanket produces a calming effect that helps lower heart rate and breathing so that you’re in a more relaxed state to sleep.
  • Blue-light blocking glasses: Blue-light exposure from devices like phone screens, computers, or TVs right before bed may interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. Wearing blue-light blocking glasses before bed can help make sure your body is producing optimum melatonin levels close to your desired bedtime. 

Have a Go-to Sleep Routine

Sleep routines can help you unwind after your shift and signal to your mind and body that it’s time to prepare for sleep mode. Many night shift nurses have shared that implementing habits before bed helps immensely. Here are a few ideas.

  • Eat a meal or snack when you get home if needed.
  • Take a hot shower.
  • Drink a warm non-caffeinated tea or beverage.
  • Read or journal to decompress your thoughts.
  • Do some light stretching. 
  • Put your phone on “night mode,” avoid screen time near bed, and set your phone to “do not disturb” while sleeping.

Watch Your Caffeine Intake

It’s tempting to want to chug coffee and energy drinks into the early hours of the morning, but consuming caffeine close to bedtime can delay the onset of sleep and trigger insomnia. Monitor your intake and aim to cut off caffeine six hours before bed. 

Communicate Your Work and Sleep Schedule with Family and Friends

It can be difficult to sleep as a night shift nurse when the rest of the world is going about their daily schedules. 

Night shift nurses might have to miss out on events in order to sleep. Communicating your schedule so that you don’t have to miss events can help with the “fear of missing out” mentality. 

Another reason to communicate your schedule is so your family and friends don’t try to contact you while you’re asleep. It’ll also prevent any worries if you don’t respond for more than six hours!

Night Shift Nursing Sleep Schedules

There’s no right or wrong sleep schedule, and the best sleep pattern for night shift nurses is the one that works for YOU. 

Some nurses prefer to stay up super late the night before and then sleep in the next day when their night shift begins. Other nurses prefer to go to bed at their usual time the night before, but take a solid nap close to the start of their night shift. 

Finding your own personal groove with the night shift will come in due time. Don’t give up on sleep and keep trying different sleep strategies until you find the ones that improve and maximize your rest!

Close up of night shift nurse sleeping on a bed

Find Your Ideal Schedule with nurseIO and Sleep Better!

If you find yourself stuck working a schedule that you dislike, try per diem nursing using the nurseIO app! The nurseIO app connects nurses looking for flexible gig work to available PRN shifts at local healthcare facilities. As an independent contractor, only work the hours you want at the facilities you prefer. Download the nurseIO app, sign up, and get started today!

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