Are you one of the 6,000,000 Americans that work the night shift? I was! My routine was EVERY Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 6:45 PM to 7:15 AM. I added a contract nursing job on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night from 10:00 PM to 6:30 AM. That contract nursing job was only temporary, and believe it or not, I actually felt better in the few weeks I worked it since I was on a routine.
This brings me to this subject. How do you work night shift and maintain well-being? I have now researched many articles, and studies on the subject of working night shift. From these readings I have developed a list of 8 things I faithfully did while I was on on this schedule to maintain and improve my well-being and rest. (and a few bonus ideas)
1) Set a goal to sleep 8 hours everyday. In the past, it has been easy for me to sleep only 4.5 or 5 hours, get up to the bathroom, and then be wide awake; only to find it is time to go back to work and I have not slept enough. One habit I am formed which transformed my life in this area. I had darkened my bedroom more than it was previously darkened. There were little cracks of light seeping through the windows, and I corrected that issue. It is now VERY dark in my room. I use room darkening curtains, and it’s made a huge difference!
2) There were several articles that discussed wearing very dark sunglasses as you leave the place of employment and on the trip home. There has been research to show that once your subject your eyes to the bright morning light, this does something to you body that says “wake up”. So, this is on my to do list, and I will be purchasing this item TODAY!
3) Eat low glycemic. I already do this. HOWEVER, I was very excited to see this was suggested in several articles. One new piece of information was to have the heavy meal in the evening prior to going on the shift. Do not eat a heavy meal in the middle of the night. Do not eat a heavy breakfast. So, take small low glycemic snacks and eat every three hours. I always have a nutritional shake or healthy finger foods with me during the night so that I can eat or snack quickly and ensure I am getting good nutrition. (I also lost 35 pounds eating this way). Research has shown that due to several endocrine factors, and increased insulin resistance for night workers, it is very important to learn these concepts.
4) Small balanced breakfast before going to bed. Do not go to bed hungry. AND make sure you eat a meal that is balanced. Do not eat a heavy meal prior to lying down. This will lay heavy on your stomach, and really make you quite uncomfortable. My favorite is to make a healthy smoothie, making sure I get healthy protein, carbohydrates and fats. A good complex carb with a high fiber content will not overwhelm your stomach, but take a while to digest, and allow you to sleep without having that “knawing” sensation in your belly.
5) Take the phone off the hook, turn the ringer off, or place your cell phone out of your room. DO NOT feel like you have to be available to the phone just because someone calls. You may be concerned with missing emergency calls. Work out another system. With a TRUE emergency, someone will come and knock on your window, or bedroom door.
6) White noise. I have also read many papers on background noise. I sleep with a “spa” type machine that plays a “rain” type sound. A bedside air filter will do the same thing. This not only drowns out any noise that is going on in the house and neighborhood, but it relaxes my mind. This is a MUST HAVE for anyone working night shift.
7) Mild to moderate exercise, before you go to work. At the end of the shift, it can get you pumping, and ready to be awake instead of getting ready for sleep.
8) Another point on nutrition. Find a good multivitamin and antioxidant. Even if you eat EVERYTHING raw, and natural, I totally believe the body needs something to fill in all nutritional gaps. There are too many external factors today that comes against our bodies causing free radicals. I have heard people say from time to time they don’t take vitamins because they don’t want expensive pee. Honestly, the body knows what it has need of on a day to day basis. What I may not need one day, I may need the next. How do you really know?
9) I used essential oils as well. Lavender is widely used for it’s calming and relaxing properties. Add a few drops of Lavender to pillows, bedding, or bottoms of feet for a restful night’s sleep. I personally have used doTERRA Essential oils for almost 5 years as of this article revision (8/20/2016). You can find Lavender and other nice blends for relaxation support on my essential oils website.
10) A nice cup of Sleepytime Tea before retiring! AH! This is so relaxing. Love my tea!
11) Try to not get your mind wired by stimulation with electronics prior to lying down. Resting your mind 30-60 minutes before you try and sleep always helps me unwind! This is SO important!!!
12) I have used Melatonin. There are study’s suggesting 3 mg.
13) Warm soaking bath about 30 minutes before lying down. Not a HOT bath, but a nice warm bath. You can add a “sleepytime” bath oil blend. I’ve found several nice natural ones at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or another nice natural place. You can also make your own by using Bronner’s unscented castile liquid soap, and adding a few drops of a lavender/chamomile oil combination.
I hope you find some of these hints and tips helpful!
Update: 9/5/2014 I recently worked nights again. I did not have a set schedule. I found this was not good for my well-being. I did better a few years ago with a set schedule. I was unable to create a set schedule with this position, so I realized to enhance my wellness, I was going to need to make a change. And I did… Be open to say NO to things that do not support your well-being. I completed my wellness coaching programs during end of 2010. I actually made a change and left night shift for several years. It was good for me to begin saying YES to what my body needed.