Many nurses are required to work night shifts at some point in their careers. Night shifts can be demanding, and not having an effective routine that supports alertness and focus can result in stress, impaired memory, poor decision-making, reduced attention span, and other negative outcomes. By implementing healthy lifestyle changes and following a few key steps, you can better manage your night shifts.

This article will provide essential information and tips for night-shift work, including strategies for preparation and support. By following these recommendations, you can improve your overall well-being and optimize your performance during night shifts.

12 Tips for Surviving Night Shifts

Working the night shift can be challenging and take a toll on your health and well-being. However, by following these helpful tips, you can make the most out of your night shift experience and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Let’s get started!

1. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it

To maximize your productivity during night shifts, it’s crucial to create a consistent sleep schedule and commit to it. Creating a sleep routine that works for you can significantly improve the quality of your rest and help you function better during work hours.

When creating a sleeping schedule, you should plan your day to get as much sleep as you need to function. Understandably, you’ll be going against your circadian clock, so to have qualitative rest, you can:

-Play white noise

-Follow your usual pre-bedtime routine

-Take a warm bath

-Avoid using electronic devices before bed

-Invest in sleep masks and noise-canceling earmuffs, etc.

Most nurses recommend sticking to your new sleeping schedule as much as possible, even on the days you’re off, so you’ll be able to stay awake during night shifts.

2. Eat healthy and stay hydrated

Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated can greatly enhance your ability to stay alert and productive during the night shift. Consuming sugary and processed foods may provide a temporary boost of energy but can ultimately lead to fatigue, weight gain, and other health issues.

To combat these issues, it’s essential to prioritize healthy eating habits. Packing nutritious snacks and light meals for your mid-shift break can help you avoid unhealthy options. Opt for snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables with hummus, yogurt, or mixed nuts, and consider light meals like salads, quinoa, or roasted chicken with vegetables.

In addition to healthy eating, staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining your energy and focus throughout the night. Keeping a bottle of water with you at all times can help remind you to drink water regularly instead of reaching for sugary snacks. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated and functioning at its best.

By prioritizing healthy eating habits and staying hydrated, you can optimize your performance during the night shift and maintain your overall health and well-being.

3. Keep a consistent exercise schedule


Maintaining a regular exercise schedule is especially important for night-shift nurses, as their work schedule can disrupt their natural sleep patterns and lead to fatigue and other health issues. Regular exercise can help counteract these negative effects and improve overall physical and mental well-being.

By creating a consistent exercise routine, night-shift nurses can increase their energy levels, reduce stress, and improve their overall mood and cognitive function.

4. Take breaks and move around to combat fatigue

While you should keep yourself busy with work to stay focused, you should also protect yourself from burnout by taking occasional breaks to energize and relax. It’s also important to move around and exercise during the night shift to combat fatigue; you can do so by walking the halls or stairs, dancing, doing squats, doing yoga, or whatever suits you.

5. Prioritize tasks


To maximize your productivity and maintain your focus during night shifts, it’s essential to prioritize your tasks. Apart from completing your direct patient care responsibilities, engage in other important activities that keep you attentive, such as paperwork review, charting, supply organization, and preparing for the next day’s shift. By prioritizing these tasks, you can minimize downtime and make the most of your shift.

6. Prepare for the morning rush

Effective preparation for the morning rush can significantly reduce the chaotic atmosphere often encountered in healthcare facilities. To achieve this, we recommend proactively identifying the tasks that typically pose challenges during this period and addressing them beforehand to mitigate potential disruptions. By doing so, you can promote a more streamlined and efficient morning routine, leading to improved productivity and patient satisfaction.

7. Avoid caffeine and sugar before the end of your shift

Although caffeine and sugary goods energize you, they have a short effect and make you feel worse once it wears off. We recommend avoiding using sugar as much as possible and only consuming caffeine around 2 a.m., as it’ll give you a boost to finish your tasks but won’t affect your sleeping cycle after your shift. We also recommend you alternate to healthier sources like green tea, matcha, ginseng tea, fruits, granola, mixed nuts, etc.

8. Take care of your mental health

Taking care of your mental health is crucial for leading a fulfilling life. It’s essential to pay attention to your emotional and psychological well-being and make sure that you’re not mentally exhausted. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, taking a few deep breaths can go a long way.

Additionally, practicing yoga and meditation, engaging in hobbies that make you feel better, and surrounding yourself with supportive and encouraging people are all effective ways to promote mental well-being.

However, it’s important to remember that sometimes seeking professional help is necessary, especially when it feels like you can’t manage your emotions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional who can offer guidance and support. Remember, taking care of your mental health is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and self-awareness.

9. Communicate with your colleagues


Effective communication with your colleagues can greatly improve your experience as a night-shift nurse. By engaging in regular conversations and building strong relationships with your colleagues, you can create a supportive and collaborative work environment.

Sharing your experiences, concerns, and ideas with others can help you stay alert and focused throughout your shift. Also, bonding with your colleagues can provide a sense of camaraderie that can make the night shift more enjoyable.

In addition to boosting morale and camaraderie, communicating with your colleagues can improve efficiency and productivity too. When you work together, you can share the workload and support each other in completing tasks. This can help alleviate the stress or exhaustion you may experience during busy periods.

10. Plan ahead

Many underestimate the power of routines and schedules. Working night shifts as a nurse, generally, can be chaotic and challenging to manage if you don’t plan ahead. You’ll find that planning the most important aspects of your life can make a huge difference. Some of the things you can plan or keep track of in a journal can be:

-Important tasks you have to complete

-Sleep schedule

-Food and water intake

-Exercise schedule

-Dates and important events

-House chores, etc.

By planning, you eliminate the stress of what you’ll have to do next and enjoy your time more.

11. Set boundaries with work and personal life

After working and combating fatigue for many hours during the night shift, you’ll want to sleep and relax. So, it would be beneficial to set boundaries with your family and friends to give you the time to rest and not deal with the outside world for a few hours. You should keep in mind that your rest and well-being have an equal say in everything.

You should also set clear boundaries at your workplace to protect yourself from being burned out and overworked.

12. Practice self-care

Working a demanding job, where you put the needs of others above your own, can cause burnout. Night shifts require you to make alterations to your whole life. So, as a night shift nurse, you’ll want to practice self-care and value your well-being.

Self-care can be anything that relaxes you after a long day or makes you feel better. Some self-care activities can be:

-Spending time in nature

-Decluttering your home

-Taking a bath

-Practicing a healthy diet


-Writing in your journal

-Listening to calm music

-Practicing yoga, etc.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Being a night-shift nurse can be challenging, but with the right mindset and strategies, it can also be fulfilling and rewarding. Prioritizing self-care, establishing a routine, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are key factors to ensure that night-shift nurses can provide optimal care for their patients while also taking care of themselves.

By implementing these tips and tricks, night-shift nurses can stay energized, motivated, and resilient throughout their shifts, ultimately improving the quality of care they provide.