Surviving Night Shift: The Tired Cave-nurse

The Paleo diet is much more effective as a lifestyle. Sleep is a very important part of this equation. The stress of poor eating habits on the body is only made worse by the sleep deprivation many Americans face! That said, sometimes our jobs require us to sacrifice our health in order to serve others. This is what I am going to have to do for the next two weeks, as I take on a night shift internship at a hospital as a nursing student.

one-does-not-simply-fall-asleep-when-they-are-a-nurse-on-nightshiftThe Paleo diet and sleep is what has kept me alive and well in nursing school thus far, so when I pulled the short straw and got the night shift, I was concerned. I know from my education that working night shift is linked to all kinds of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, metabolic disturbances, and depression. New research shows it could even damage your genes. But someone has to do it!

Vanderbilt University has done some helpful research on the subject. One of the most important findings from this research is that sleep deprivation as a means to begin shift-work is maladaptive. This poses a certain danger in healthcare, as tired nurses are more prone to making medical errors. Therefore, this experiment of mine is just as much for my patient’s health as it is for my own. My plan includes concepts from the Vanderbilt research as well as my own sleep techniques.

I will follow this schedule, and in two weeks, I will report back to tell you how it went.

Nightcap for sleeping during the day:
Melatonin 0.5 mg (This is all you need to fall asleep, anything much more is TOO MUCH.)
Magnesium Supplement
Eye Mask
Blackout Curtains

Daycap for night:
Vitamin D supplement
Caffeine (but never past 2 pm)
Paleo diet (avoid carb crashes!)


Monday (Transitioning):
2:45 am: Get in bed.
10:15 am: Wake up.

Tuesday (Transitioning): 
4:45 am: Get in bed.
12:15 pm: Wake up.

Wednesday (Transitioning):
7:45 am: Get in bed.
3:15 pm: Wake up.

Thursday (Transitioning):
9:45 am: Get in bed.
5:15 pm: Wake up.

First 3 Work Nights (Fri, Sat, Sun):
9:45 am: Be in my bed reading or laying down to get 7 hours of sleep.
5:15 pm: Wake up and get ready. Drink one cup of tea or coffee and eat a protein.
6:40 pm: Be at the hospital, on my unit, and ready for report.
7:00 am: Finish patient care, give report, and leave hospital by this time.
7:20 am: Make and eat “dinner.” (Bonus if husband makes it).
8:20 am: Wind-down and spend time with husband and/or review paperwork.
9:00 am: Shower and get ready for bed.
9:45 am: Be in my bed reading or laying down to get 7 hours of sleep.

2-3 Days Off: Continue “Night Stay” schedule.
5:15 pm: Wake up, get ready, eat breakfast.
8:00 pm: Grocery shopping.
Study/free time
11:00 pm: “Lunch”
Study/free time
5:00 am: “Dinner”
Study/free time
9:45 am: Be in my bed reading or laying down to get 7 hours of sleep.

Work Nights Back On: Continue previous work schedule.

Transition Back: Exactly the opposite of Monday through Thursday, with exceptions if necessary.

Wish me luck!