Working rotating shifts makes quality rest a doubly important factor in a nurse’s life. Being well rested will do more than make you feel better; clinical studies have shown that nurses who have gotten proper rest deliver better patient care and commit fewer errors.
Dr. Kathy Reid, a research assistant professor at Northwestern University’s School of Feinberg Medicine who studies sleep and circadian rhythms in shift workers, provides the following five tips on how rotating shift nurses can get the most out of their sleep and arrive at work fully refreshed.
1. Have good sleep hygiene. That means sleeping in a dark room that’s quiet and making sure you regulate the temperature of the room. [Editor's note: An eyemask and possibly even ear plugs if you live in a loud daytime environment can be very helpful.]
2. Avoid exposure to bright light as you’re ending your shift or on the way home from work, as bright light can make you more alert. [Editor's note: Try sunglasses when the sun is rising.]
3. Caffeine is a great intervention. It takes 30 minutes to kick in, so have some right before you come to work. [Editor's note: Hot teas are better for you than coffee and still have caffeine. Herbal tea can also be very soothing prior to going to sleep for the day after a long night shift.]
4. Take naps. If you’ve awakened at 7 a.m. and are scheduled to start work again at midnight, it’s well worth it to take a nap in the early evening.
5. Come into your series of night shifts well rested. You can’t bank sleep, meaning you can’t sleep for 12 hours one night and two hours the next and expect to feel okay. So it’s important to try to be well rested to begin with.