Until my residency, I had never pulled an all-nighter. Yet here I am, hired on as a new grad night nurse. The second the sun comes up, I usually wake up chipper as can be and after 9PM I am useless. I am now forced to change my biologic nature for nightshift then convert back to day shift for my residency courses.
Somehow, someway I was able to make it through six nightshifts thus far, and even like it! The first thing I did was make sure I slept in on the day of my nightshift. I then do not allow myself to have any coffee this day. I go and exercise to tire myself out, go home take a nap, then get ready for work. At this point, I consume my coffee. Every once in awhile I am unable to nap, so I just rest and watch TV. Even allowing my body to just be still is better than nothing. For my first nightshift I end up staying awake close to 24 hours.
Once my shift begins, I hit the ground running. Because I am in the ICU of Pediatric Heme/Onc, my kiddos are in isolation. This means I have to don full PPE. With this in mind, I stay as long as I can in the patient’s room and cluster their care. During the first six hours of my shift I am pretty busy, and I drink coffee as I go. I don’t hit a wall until around 0300. This is usually when I will take my first of two breaks.
Some nurses take naps on their breaks. I do not. I feel like it only makes me more tired. Instead, I watch Netflix in the break room and snack on veggies if I feel hungry. I also make sure I do not lie down.
By the time I get off, seeing the sun helps keep me awake. To help me stay awake on my commute home, I snack on carrots or celery. Additionally, I do not put on my sunglasses. Doing so can make you want to sleep!
Once I get home, I am wiped. I take a shower and perform my normal sleep hygiene. I end up getting around six hours of deep sleep. Since I started nightshift, I have developed the talent of napping. I was never able to nap until nights. Listen to your body and nap when needed.
If I have a few nightshifts in a row, I repeat the above cycle. But if I have to convert back to day schedule for my residency curriculum days, I will come home from my shift and take a three hour nap, then wake up and get out into the world. Seeing the sun puts me back onto normal schedule. Also, getting out and being productive helps so much. I am then able to fall asleep that night and get a full night’s sleep.
The biggest adjustment for me was getting used to the groggy feeling nightshift leaves. I constantly feel as though my head is in a cloud. I can think straight, I know what I am doing, however it feels fuzzy. Nights are totally doable and you can even live a normal life and convert back to days!