How to Work Night Shift and Stay Healthy

September 17, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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As a nurse, you have many options for what shift you want to work and for how long. While some nurses work three 12-hour days, others may work five 8-hour days. And, what about day vs night shifts? While working the graveyard shift may not seem like a good idea, it actually has many benefits. From offering more money — in some cases — to providing a less stressful working environment, picking up the night shift may be better than you initially thought. But, how does it impact your health?

What is the night shift?

Night shift is considered the time worked between 8 pm and 8 am. While the hours may start later and end earlier, the majority of the time worked is during nighttime hours. For nurses, the responsibilities between day shift and night shift are typically the same, but it’s usually quieter as patients are sleeping. Night shifts for nurses are usually offered in:

  • Hospitals
  • Home health care
  • 24-Hour clinics
  • ERs

How to Prepare for a Night Shift

Whether you’re picking up a night shift for a coworker or making night shifts a permanent part of your nursing career, there are many things you need to know. First, night shifts aren’t for everyone. But, secondly, night shifts can help you change up and thrive in your career if you know how to prepare for them.

Develop a Routine

If picking up night shifts is temporary, make sure you aren’t mixing day shifts with night shifts back to back. Try to group all of your night shifts in the same week, or give yourself a couple of days in between shifts to account for the schedule change. If you’re looking to pick up night shifts for a longer period of time, think about what needs to get done during the day, and figure out what time works best for these activities — such as household chores, meditating, exercising, and more. It’s likely that your schedule may be the opposite of others in your household. Work together to develop a routine that works for everyone, and stick to it.

Prioritize Sleep

Not only does it matter how long you sleep, but what quality of sleep you get each night can significantly impact your health. It’s recommended that the average adult achieve seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But, because most people in your household and around your home are on an opposite sleep schedule, there can be a lot of distractions that interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. Common solutions to noise and light pollution for day-sleepers include:

  • Investing in good quality blackout curtains
  • Wearing a comfortable eye mask
  • Using a white noise machine or app
  • Avoiding technology — like computers and phones — right before bed

Eat Healthy

Be mindful about what it is you’re feeding to your body. While the night shift means fewer cars on the road, it also means fewer places are open for food. Typically, what you’re left with are 24-hour fast food joints. But, these foods are loaded with sodium, fats, and ingredients that will make you feel sluggish.

Prep your meals beforehand to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to get through your shift. By packing a lunch filled with proteins and greens, you’ll have the energy necessary to do your job. And, instead of reaching for that vending machine chocolate bar, opt for bringing fruits, trail mix, or a high-energy protein bar. Make sure to keep a thermos handy with water. Staying hydrated can regulate your body temperature, prevent infections, and deliver nutrients to the cells efficiently.


Whether you work a day shift or a night shift, integrating exercise into your daily routine can help relieve stress and keep your heart healthy. Incorporate exercise in the morning to ensure you won’t be too wired to fall asleep. A well-rounded program can lower your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic health conditions, maintain a healthy weight, and improve your mood and cognitive functioning. Your program should include:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Flexibility training

Plan Socialization

While this idea may seem impossible when you’re working on the opposite schedule of your friends and family, there are opportunities to socialize. Socializing improves your mental and social health. Make plans to get food with a friend after your shift. While it may be your dinner, it can be their breakfast.

Night shifts are actually perfect for homes with young children. That’s because your shift ends around the time that your children need to get up and ready for school. Spend time in the morning with them before you go to bed. Or, attend their after-school concerts and sporting events before you head to work in the evening. If you have a day off coming up, plan to wake up earlier to spend time with your partner. You can always take a nap later in the night if you get tired — just as you would during the daytime.

Take Time for Yourself

The most important thing you can do to prepare for a night shift is to mentally prepare to put yourself first. Nursing is a stressful job, and while a night shift can be less stressful than a day shift, night shift also brings personal challenges. Take it easy on yourself, and understand that changing to a night shift schedule can take time to get right. You may suffer some sleepless days before you get your routine down. That’s ok. Take a deep breath, and try again the next morning. Adjusting takes time, and when you’re kind to yourself, it makes the transition easier.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Pediatric Nursing Jobs

Are you looking to become a pediatric nurse? Care Options for Kids can help. We are currently looking for compassionate and nurturing Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Pediatric Registered Nurses (RNs) in various locations. Care Options for Kids specializes in one-on-one hourly pediatric care in the home. We offer PTO, medical, dental and vision benefits, flexible schedules, and more.

If you or a loved one are considering a career in pediatric nursing, contact Care Options for Kids. Apply online or call today at (888) 592-5855.