Working the night shift presents unique challenges to your daily routine, even when you’re not traveling. On average, night shifts for healthcare travelers are between 8 to 12 hours long. Taking a night shift assignment as a first-time traveler can be intimidating unless you take steps to thrive during those long night shifts.
Stick to a Schedule
To make sure your first night shift as a medical traveler goes as comfortably as possible, you must prepare yourself for mental, emotional, and physical change. Night shift preparation begins long before the day of your assignment. It is vital to plan ahead, so your mind and body can adjust to your new schedule. In the weeks leading up to your travel assignment, gradually change your sleeping patterns to reset your circadian rhythm.
Maintaining a sleep schedule during daylight can be difficult, so you may want to invest in a few items to ensure restful sleep. Since exposure to sunlight tells your brain that you should be awake, blackout curtains or a sleeping mask can make it easier to sleep during the day. It may also be helpful to try using white noise apps to help block out any noise that might wake you.
The bottom line is that sleep is even more important when you work nights. Your success working the night shift depends on sticking to a sleep schedule. Inconsistent sleep patterns can lead to a weak immune system, poor memory, and a lack of concentration.
Maintain a Consistent Meal Schedule
It can be disorienting to change your sleeping and eating habits, and like sleep, your body has a rhythm for hunger. However, good nutrition is non-negotiable when working nights. Preparing healthy, balanced meals and snacks helps maintain your energy levels and support your overall health.
A well-balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These superfoods will help you stay energized during your night shift assignment. Try to avoid the temptation of vending machine snacks at the facility. While these high-sugar, processed foods may give you a quick burst of energy, they will eventually lead to a crash.
Prioritize Self Care
It is important for medical travelers (especially night shift workers) to prioritize self-care when tackling a new schedule, particularly when it comes to your mental health. As you fall into your new routines, be sure to add “you time” to your schedule and enjoy your days off. When your night shift travel assignment starts, be sure to focus on self-care.
Everyone loves caffeine, but moderation is key. Water increases focus and enhances energy without a caffeine crash. In addition, water is essential for optimal brain function and overall health. The amount of water you should drink varies based on several factors, like diet and exercise. But the general guideline for adults is between 9 and 13 cups of water per day.
It’s inevitable that you’ll have a fair amount of downtime while working the night shift but resist the temptation to sit down floor too long. It might take some creativity, but there are many ways to exercise during your night shift travel assignment. Walking around the unit, taking advantage of stairways, or doing some light cleaning are all great ways to stay active and help fight fatigue.
Don’t be afraid of night shift travel assignments. While it may seem overwhelming, planning and preparation can help you transition smoothly into your ever-changing schedule.