Travel Nurse Shift Rotation: Tips to Survive the Change

As travel nurses, there may be times that you have to rotate shifts or shift rotation.  One of the hardest appears to be switching/rotating from day shift to night shift.  Staying up all night to work is sometimes difficult since we are not nocturnal by nature. Since birth, we have been ingrained to sleep at night and be up during the day.

Finding ways to make this switch easier will help the transition of shift rotation that much smoother.  Below you will find a list of suggested ways to make transitioning from days to nights easier.

Stay up the night before your shift:

Stay up late the night before your shift. Sleeping during the day before your first night back will make you less tired than if you had slept the night before and stayed up during the day.  It may seem obvious but switching back to your night shift schedule before you go back to work will help you get back into the night shift routine.

Eat healthier:

Junk food makes you tired.  All the added sugars cause you to get tired.   Many people believe that sugar gives you a “high” but in fact, it is the opposite.  It will cause you to feel sluggish after a while.  Having healthier snacks with you will help keep you awake.  One member even suggested having crunchy snacks.

 Sleep.org  offers some suggestions for snacks if you are feeling tired, here are a few of those:

  • Chocolate- now, we know we said to avoid sugars.  However, Sleep.org suggest chocolate because cocoa beans contain natural alertness boosting caffeine.  It doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee, however the darker the chocolate the more caffeine it has.
  • Green Tea- they suggest keeping hydrated because when you are dehydrated you can feel sleepy.  Of course, water is your best source to keep hydrated but they say if you feel you need caffeine stick with green tea instead of coffee.  It has great health benefits as well.
  • Protein- while you won’t have an instant boost in energy, because protein offers a slow energy release, the protein will also help keep you feeling fuller longer than foods high in sugar.  Sleep.org suggests trying lean meats as a source of protein.

Block-schedule:

Try to have the days you work clumped together or have a block schedule.  This will ensure that you have days off clumped together so you aren’t going back and forth between sleeping days and nights.  It will give your body a chance to get used to the change of each.  Many of the members suggested having this put into your contract, so you know ahead of time that it will be that way for your entire assignment.

Sleep-aids:

Sleep aids will help you sleep during the day if you are having difficulty.  They also can help to make sleeping at night after working consecutive nights easier as well.  There are many options to choose from when looking into sleep aids.  If you are wanting something more natural than synthetic you can choose the natural version of Melatonin.  For many Melatonin helps sleep and not wake up feeling tired.

Nap:

Many of our members suggested taking a short 2 to 3-hour nap after your last night worked.   A 2-3 hour nap may not seem like very long, however, this will give you just enough sleep to keep you going for the day.  After you wake up, keep yourself busy.  You can run errands, clean, or whatever you can to keep yourself awake.   While you may feel tired during the day this will make it easier to sleep that night and reset your sleep schedule.

Black-out curtains:

One of the biggest reasons for sleeping during the day is so hard is because of the sunlight.   Black-out curtains are made of thicker and heavier material.  They have special backing.  They not only block out the sunlight, but they also help block out noises from the outside.   There are many choices of blackout curtains.  We found this list of the Top 7 Best Black-Out Curtains on Amazon. Blackout curtains range in price.  You just need to do your research and read reviews.  Some of the lower costing black-out curtains may work better than the more expensive ones.

Rotating shifts or shift rotation between day shift and night shift isn’t easy and everyone will have their own tips and tricks.   Some of these may work for some people but may not work for others.  You will just have to find ways that work for you.  It is our hope that this list will help you on your path to finding those tricks that work for you.

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