Get Better Rest as a Nurse on Night Shift in Celebration of Sleep Awareness Week, March 8-14, 2020

If you're a night shift nurse, awareness of your sleep habits is critical for both your health and the safety of your patients. Sleep deficiency in nurses is such a widespread problem that the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) released a position statement at the end of 2017 addressing the issue.

The AAN states that safe healthcare practice requires nurses to obtain both high-quality sleep and sleep of "adequate duration." Nurse fatigue is a hazard for patients because tired nurses are more prone to error. The drivers who share the road with you during your daily commute are also in danger if you're drowsy behind the wheel.

Celebrate Sleep Awareness Week, March 8-14, 2020, along with the National Sleep Foundation by following these tips for more restorative rest when you're working night shifts.

1. Shun the Blue Screens before Bedtime

One of the most effective ways to get better rest as a nurse is to resist the tempting dark side of the blue light. Your smartphone, tablet or laptop emits a blue light that suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms. Avoid looking at bright screens two hours before bed. If your night shift work doesn't allow that, Harvard Health suggests wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.

2. Experiment with Sleeping Aids, Herbal Potions and Body Lotions

There are a multitude of over-the-counter sleep aids and personal care products designed to promote slumber. Some of the most popular include:

  • Melatonin:Low doses of melatonin (from 0.5 mg. to 3 mg.) are effective for promoting sleep.
  • Benadryl: Because it contains the sedating antihistamine diphenhydramine, Benadryl and its generic counterparts can be effective for use during an occasional bout of insomnia.
  • Essential oils: Aromatherapy fans find the oils from lavender and clary sage especially good for enhancing deep sleep and promoting relaxation. Mix the essential oils with a carrier oil and apply to your skin. You can also dilute them with water and spray onto your pillow or put a few drops in a diffuser. Many body lotions and hand creams contain a blend of sleep-promoting botanicals.
  • Herbal teas and tinctures: Sip a cup of valerian or chamomile tea before bed for a calming effect, or place a few drops of the herbal tinctures under your tongue after brushing your teeth.

3. Create a Dark and Restful Sleeping Sanctuary

Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep, according to Harvard Health. A good pair of blackout curtains can turn your bedroom into a dark cave, even in the presence of bright midday sunlight. Consider sleeping with a comfortable eye mask for extra room-darkening power.

4. Block out Disruptive Sounds

If you're a light sleeper who notices every little noise in the environment, find a good pair of earplugs made from wax, foam or silicone. Barking dogs, traffic and kids at play right outside your bedroom may also warrant an investment in a white-noise machine or desk fan. Compact noise machines designed for portability are ideal for travel nurses.

5. Exercise Your Right to a "do Not Disturb" Time

If you've got roommates or live with family, use a bedroom door hanger that indicates you're sleeping and shouldn't be disturbed. Night shift nurses who live alone can find a wide variety of fun signs for the front door to let delivery people and neighbors know you're sleeping. Silence your phone, and if you're a parent working the nursing night shift, try to enlist a trusted family member or friend to act as the first-call person for your child's day care or school.

6. Schedule Your Weekly Sleep Hours

Megan Brunson, MSN, RN, CCRN-CSC, CNL, manager of the CVICU and night shift supervisor at Medical City Dallas Hospital, advises night shift nurses to create a weekly calendar that clearly specifies sleep hours. Treat that time with as much respect as you would a medical appointment or another important commitment. To ensure you stay alert at work and physically and emotionally on top of your game, Brunson says that "sleep has to be the No. 1 priority in your schedule."

Sleep more soundly when working night shifts by finding the travel nursing job of your dreams. Industry leader American Mobile has thousands of available nursing jobs with assignments of varying lengths in some of the best healthcare facilities and hospitals throughout the United States.

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