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Night Shift Nursing: How to Create a Better Work-Life Balance

Night shift nursing can be difficult. There may be days you feel as though life is passing around you while you recover from a long night shift. 

There may be times – especially when you first start out – that you may suffer from extreme lack of sleep. There may also be difficulty in balancing your work and home life. 

However, with intentional practices, you can reap the benefits of this schedule and learn how to adjust to night shift nursing. 

Make sure you are intentional with the below tips and tricks to get the most out of your professional and personal life.

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4 Tips On How To Adjust To Night Shift Nursing

1. Consider Grouping Shifts Together

To maintain a sense of normality, consider working longer, such as three twelve-hour shifts. A twelve-hour schedule allows your body time to get into a working rhythm during night shift nursing. 

Grouping shifts in a two- or three-day cycle allows for longer periods of time off to enjoy family, friends, and personal time on a normal schedule.

While three twelves may be tiring, the time off may just be worth it. Experiment with your schedule to find a pattern that maximizes the benefits of the night shift so that you learn how to adjust to night shift nursing.

2. Prioritize Self-Care

Be intentional about taking care of yourself. Night shift nurses can suffer from shift disorder, which occurs when you swing between night and day shift lives. 


One of the best self-care techniques for night shift nursing staff is getting a good night's – or day's – rest. Make sure that you sleep at the same time each day – keeping the room cool and limiting technology will help you obtain a peaceful rest. 

The use of darkening blinds or curtains creates a peaceful nighttime environment that will help sync you with your natural circadian rhythms.  

Once you are sleeping well, make sure you are getting plenty of exercise every day. (And running up and down the halls of the unit does not count!)

Diet and Fitness 

Join a fitness club, class, or simply go for a walk. Just thirty minutes of exercise that uses both arms and legs will help with sleep, decrease stress, and increase mental clarity.

Maintaining a healthy diet is also very important. We teach patients every day about eating a well-balanced diet. When adjusting to night shift nursing, heed your own advice! 

Small meals with frequent, healthy snacks are best. Try to stay away from the vending machines at work, as they are loaded with snacks containing sugar and empty calories that will leave you feeling sluggish. 

Try these power snack ideas for nurses. Resist using caffeine on days you are tired. And, while alcohol may relax you, it will not add to a peaceful sleep. Instead, drink water, and lots of it! Staying hydrated is very important to your overall health.

3. Schedule Quality Time

Schedule quality time with friends and family on your days off. Schedule days off to coincide with important events in your family and in your children’s lives. 

Night shift nursing staff often find that quality family and personal time is easier to fit into their schedule. 

Whether you get home early enough to get the kids off to school, meet friends for breakfast, or attend a late-night yoga class, you can schedule quality time into your night shift life. Practice intentional scheduling to reap the best benefits.

4. Focus on the Positive

Keep a positive outlook. Focusing on the best parts of night shift nursing is a needed mental practice. 

Once you learn how to adjust to night shift nursing, you may find that the night shift offers a slower pace and a small, close-knit, family-like staff that adds quality to your professional life. 

Some nurses enjoy working when there are less management and administrative activities going on as well. Finally, receiving a nice shift differential may be an added bonus to working the night shift.

Work-life balance for night shift nursing staff has long been an issue. 

If you need some extra training on how to make the best of this shift, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health created a program in 2015 specifically for nurses who work night shifts and long hours.

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