How to Survive a Night Shift

When I began working where I do, the prospect of 12-hour, waking night shifts seemed a little daunting; beginning at 8pm, and finishing at 8am. How was I supposed to stay awake that long? Especially with sleeping in the day being something that doesn’t come easy to a lot of people. As such, here are some methods which I have found have helped me in this:

  1. Eat well: I find that my energy levels drop almost immediately after ordering pizza in my breaks. I also found that eating something like this before work meant I was tired before midnight. Pasta, vegetables… boring things like that; they help maintain energy.
  2. Don’t rely on energy drinks: they really make you crash. The half-hour of increased energy isn’t worth the heavy eye-lids that follow. Caffeine can help, and I do have a constant flow of tea throughout the night, but energy drinks are a killer.
  3. Keep busy: Sitting down for too long, even in the quieter hours of the morning, can make it so much harder to stand up and get going again. Find things to do throughout the night, or alternatively, only sit once everything that needs to be done is sorted, even if you ‘have 4-hours to do it anyway’.
  4. Keep talking: I have found for myself that if I am on with a colleague who shares similar interests to me, the best way to make time fly and to stay awake, is to have a conversation with them. This can be about anything from movies, books etc. and I find during the night, conversations about deeper things such as philosophy in art, political movements, and religion, come so much easier.
  5. Keep healthy at all costs: I actively avoid illness. When working nights, your immune system begins to mess up a bit due to lack of sleep (6-hours is considered a lot in-between consecutive shifts). Vitamins, healthy drinks, exercise: everything you can do to not catch that ‘bug’ going around. Working whilst ill sucks, and makes staying awake so much harder.
  6. Prepare: the night before my first night-shift after a break, I stay up late watching movies. I naturally wake up quite early on my days off (sometimes as early as 4am!) so by staying up late, I manage to sleep into at-least midday. This means when I begin work, I will have been awake for less than if I had got up at say 8am. For some, they prefer to nap in the afternoon before work instead, but for myself this is risky: I can’t guarantee I’ll nap.
  7. Take something to do: Some nights, nobody will feel like talking (most the times, this is me), and so you need to take something to keep yourself occupied during breaks. I read, though some find this hard to do and stay awake. Some colleagues bring their Kindle with TV Shows downloaded onto it. One nurse brings a medical textbook to read – I guess learning is one method too that shouldn’t be ignored.

There are probably more, but that’s what I’ve got for now… will post an update if more come to mind!


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