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16 survival tips to navigate night shift

16 survival tips to navigate night shift
If you’re a nurse, there’s a good chance you’ll navigate the night shift throughout your career. And while the duties and responsibilities are no different after ‘lights out’, the night shift presents challenges – but also opportunities.

One thing’s certain, though, the night shift will require significant adjustments to your daily routines and personal life.

After a decade-long search to master night shift, registered nurse Emma Smith co-founded The Other Shift to share real shift work advice on making a non-traditional schedule work.

Night shift doesn’t negate a happy and healthy life, according to Ms Smith, because for all its downfalls, there is a bright side.

The bright side of night shift
The night shift poses some obvious challenges, including social isolation and increased risk of chronic health conditions, but it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, with the right approach, there are some surprising upsides to working when the sun goes down.

So, what are the positives to working the ‘graveyard shift’? Ms Smith says she’s found the night shift rewarding in the following ways:

Financial incentive
If you’re able to work less popular hours, you’ll boost your savings account.

Domestic juggle
Nights can work well within a family dynamic, particularly when juggling school hours and your partner’s job.

Calm commute
There are limited vehicles on the road during the night, making the commute easier. There’s also an abundance of parking spots, allowing you to park closer to work for less!

Relaxed vibe
There are typically fewer people working during the night shift, especially in management, so it’s a more relaxed vibe.

Beat the crowds
Night shift allows you to enjoy time off in the middle of the week when most people work. You can get your ‘jobs done’ like going to the bank, post office and dry cleaners, all without having to worry about crowds or opening hours. While you may need to work on the weekend or public holidays, the other perks are often enough to keep you motivated!

Navigate night shifts with ease

Ms Smith shares her top tips on navigating the night shift to minimise the impact on your personal and professional life.

1. Commit to working the night shift.
Accept you cannot be everything for everyone. You will likely miss events and struggle to catch up with those in your inner circle during your night shifts. But if you’re not on a permanent night shift roster, it won’t last forever! So, enjoy the nights while you’re there and try not to overthink about what you’re missing.

2. Find a routine.
Our circadian rhythm is obsessed with routine, so don’t make it more difficult than it already is. When you arrive home, create a consistent routine and strive for seven to nine hours of sleep, even if this happens in a few blocks.

3. Create a cave in your bedroom.
Aim for a space that is quiet, cool and dark. Think about investing in blackout blinds, earplugs, an eye mask, white noise machines and cool pyjamas.

4. Block out blue light around 90 minutes before bed.
Wearing blue-light-blocking glasses is a simple way to ensure blue light doesn’t keep you up when you need your sleep.

5. Buy the orange lenses! 
You need blue light blocking glasses that screen 90% of the blue light between 450-500nm (these are the dark orange lens specs), as this is the part of the spectrum linked to melatonin, our sleep hormone.

6. Book in a social event.
Nothing beats finishing on a high note! Give yourself something to look forward to after your run of nights.

7. Bring snacks over a big meal.
Eating sustainable but easily digestible snacks will keep you full during your shift and prevent sugar cravings. Limiting what you are eating when it’s dark will make your digestive system happier. Think soups, smoothies, broths and homemade protein balls.

8. Limit caffeine of all sorts. 
Stay away from caffeine six hours before you intend on sleeping - including coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks (just to name a few).

9. Move once you wake up in the afternoon.
Exercise could include an intensive gym session or a walk around the block in the sun. Getting your heart pumping regularly can prevent the onset of chronic health issues linked with working the third shift.
 
10. Resist the urge to stay awake
When you arrive home, don’t delay going to sleep if you can help it. Watching one episode of a TV series instead of a two-hour movie is ideal.

11. Commit to exercise
Prepare your runners and activewear by your bedroom door as a constant reminder to exercise. Organising a workout with a friend or paying for an exercise class at a set time can be great motivators in raising your heart rate.

12. Meal delivery service
Consider a meal delivery service if prepping your food is time-consuming, or you find that you’re relying on the vending machine.

13. Shift work app
Use a shift work calendar app to organise your shifts in a format that suits you.

14. Dinner in the sunshine
Enjoy dinner outside in the sun before you leave for a shift (where possible). Allowing the sun to hit your skin will help provide the recommended vitamin D for healthy muscle and bone development.

15. Personal cutlery and containers
Purchase your own set of cutlery and sustainable food containers. Who knows where the silverware in the tearoom has been!

16. Request your roster
If you’re lucky enough to have some control over your roster, allocate days that suit you and your lifestyle outside of work. Don’t leave the shifts you work to chance!

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.