6 Sleep Tips for Night Shift Nurses

By Aaron Alstrom

Night shifts are a polarizing thing for nurses. Some nurses love them, some nurses hate them, and others are simply paying their dues on the night shift until they can switch to the day shift. It’s a rite of passage for nurses; there’s a lot to learn at night in the hospital. Unfortunately, one of the most difficult parts of working the night shift is managing to get quality sleep during the day. Our brains are not programmed to sleep during the day and be awake at night. The circadian rhythm is our sleep/wake cycle; it controls the production of melatonin which makes us sleepy at night. The melatonin recedes during the day, allowing for awake time. Below you will find 6 tips to maximize your melatonin and get high-quality, restful sleep during the day.

1. Go easy on the caffeine.

A good sleep starts well before your head hits the pillow. As hard as it is, stop your caffeine intake hours before the end of your shift. A study found that consuming caffeine six hours prior to bedtime can give you one less hour of sleep. Switch to water about halfway through your shift; chances are, you’re not getting enough water anyway.

2. Limit your exposure to blue light.

Blue light refers to the light that comes from the sun that causes circulating melatonin levels to decrease, which is why you’re awake during the day and feel sleepy at night. Smartphones, TVs, and computer screens all emit blue light leading to decreased melatonin levels and difficulty sleeping. It’s impossible to avoid blue light completely with all the charting nurses do on computers. However, try to cut down exposure to other sources. When you leave work, be sure to wear quality sunglasses. Don’t spend any more time outside than absolutely necessary. Use the blue light filter on your smart phone so checking Facebook doesn’t keep you awake.

3. Invest in blackout curtains.

Limiting sunlight is crucial to sleeping well for more than avoiding blue light. Psychologically, it’s easier to feel sleepy when it’s dark than when the sun is streaming through the windows. Blackout curtains will also block the sound of your neighbors mowing their grass in the middle of the day and keep it a little cooler as well.

4. White noise is good noise.

There are a myriad of ways to get white noise in your bedroom. Fans, white noise machines, and special earbuds can go a long way towards blocking out the dog barking. Additionally, there are endless apps for your smartphone that can transport to the ocean, a mountain stream, or to the middle of a storm.

5. Keep your cool.

Studies have shown that better sleep is attained when the ambient temperature is lower. Exposure to heat increases awake time. Crank down the thermostat, put up blackout curtains, and fire up your fan to optimize your sleeping environment.

6. Take a little help from the store.

Another great option to help you get a good day’s sleep is medicine. A multitude of supplements including melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, and others are available over the counter to make you sleepy. If you’ve tried the drugstore route but are still struggling to get the sleep you need, speak with your primary care provider to get something stronger. It’s vital you get a good night’s sleep – your health and the lives of your patients depend on it.

Aaron Alstrom is the Director of Operations for HealthCare Pros a Nurse staffing and management company with 25 years of industry-specific knowledge, experience, and care. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service and producing positive results for our clients.



Thanks Aaron! Here’s some additional reading about making your bedroom more sleep friendly