Surviving the Night Shift

I’ve been an LPN for 6 years now and in that time, I’ve worked my fair share of night shifts. In fact, my current position includes mostly night shifts. I’ve come across some tips and tricks that work for me!

First, make sure you’re taking care of yourself on your off days. Sleep in, but don’t over do it. You can’t simply “catch up” on sleep, but you can deprive your body of awake moments in daytime. The sun is important, so make sure you say hello to it when the opportunity rises.

Surviving the night shift:

  1. Don’t sit down longer than 10 minutes at a time.
  2. Drink water. Lots and lots of water. It’s more beneficial than caffeinated drinks.
  3. Engage in conversation with others when possible (patients, coworkers).
  4. Write things down. Write things down. Write things down.
  5. Dress warm. It gets cold and your body gets cold on nights.
  6. Bring snacking foods. No big meals!

Prepare for your night shift and your drive to work:

  1. Nap before hand. This doesn’t benefit everyone. It makes some people more tired.
  2. Eat a good dinner. Eat a big one!
  3. Load up your phone or iPod with podcasts. I suggest “Serial,” “RadioLab,” and “The Vinyl Cafe”
  4. Load up your phone or iPod with upbeat music.
  5. When driving: Have your windows down and your music up on the way home.
  6. Also when driving, don’t be afraid to dance ridiculously in your seat to the music. Stay awake.
  7. Prepare to pull over and have a nap if you are too tired to drive.

Sleeping during the day

  1. Black-out shades, a blanket over the window, or a sleep mask. Block out the light.
  2. Ensure your room or sleeping area is cool. It’s easy to overheat when sleeping in the daytime.
  3. Turn off all alarms and phone notifications.
  4. Use a SleepTracker or use multiple alarms if you need to wake up for something, such as picking your kids up from school, making appointments, etc.
  5. Know that your body will likely not want to sleep for a long period of time. I often only get two periods of three hours of sleep on good days.
  6. Get up. Grab a coffee. Get dressed. Pretend you are refreshed and go about your business.


It is hard to adjust to, but it is work, and we need caregivers at all hours of the day, so kudos to you for stepping up to the plate!

I know some of you may have recoiled in awe when I mentioned that water is better than caffeinated beverages on night shifts, but this seems to be the general consensus. Water hydrates you and keeps your stomach content while you have your small snacks. It also ensures that you don’t have caffeine in your system when you get home and are trying to sleep.

Small snacks help you avoid the over-filled tummy effects that include being overtired! Small snacks give you the energy to complete your shift and hopefully helps you curb the inevitable cravings for carbs that comes with night shift working.

Being cold comes with the territory as well. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, you will likely find yourself being very cold while your body is trying to tell you to cozy up (for a hopeful nap). I avoid sleeping on night shifts although it is permitted at some jobs, because it makes me more tired and less available for my patients.

Write things down. It’s very easy to get distracted and it’s even easier to forget that the patient in 503 asked for some Tylenol before you were whisked away to room 507 for a patient fall.

Take care of yourself on your days off. Be kind to your loved ones, even if the underslept monster wants to scream out of sleep deprivation. Your night shifts won’t last forever. A day off is coming soon!

Leave a Reply