A good sleep schedule can help you maintain good mental and physical health. However, many nurses reading this might be thinking “Sleep schedule? What’s that?” Shift work can make a consistent sleep schedule near impossible. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still get good quality sleep. After all, the time of day is only one part of the sleep routine. By nailing all the other aspects, you can get the rest you need to thrive.
Trusted Nurse Staffing prides itself on being a great resource for nurses and the people who hire them. We’ve put together this guide in hopes that we can help our prized healthcare workers get some much-deserved Zzs.
Consider a Sleep Aid
Before we start into general sleep hygiene and advice, we want to address sleep aids. If you’re consistently having issues falling asleep, especially after you try the advice later on, you might want to try using some kind of sleep aid to help get some rest. There are plenty of gentle over-the-counter options like CBD wax (although you should check with your HR department before using any cannabis-derived substance).
If gentler options don’t work, you can also talk to your doctor about a prescription sleep aid. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that any chemical sleep aid (even melatonin) could leave you drowsy after you wake up, and it’s certainly not wise to use them when you’re on call. This should be a last-ditch effort, and it’s likely one you’ll want to discuss with your supervisor in order to ensure you can continue to safely perform your duties.
Create a Sleep Routine
When you’re not always going to bed at night, you need a solid sleep routine to get your brain into sleep mode. For example, you might decide to take a warm bath, followed by reading a relaxing book in low light. Invest in light-blocking blinds or curtains to create darkness in your bedroom at any time of day. This combination of relaxing warmth and a dim environment can help trigger your body to release melatonin, making even daytime sleep more restful.
It’s important to create a routine you’re comfortable doing every time you want to go to bed. So, if you don’t want to draw a bath every day, maybe you can swap that for a cup of herbal tea. If you’re not much of a reader, you could instead listen to some gentle, relaxing music or practice mindfulness meditation. Pick something you enjoy and that relaxes you, and do it in as dark an environment as possible. This is a great way to establish good sleep hygiene and train your brain to snooze on command.
Avoid Sleep Sabotage
The other side of sleep hygiene is sleep sabotage. For example, you shouldn’t have caffeine toward the end of your shift if you know you plan to sleep when you get home. Keep your phone out of your bedroom unless you’re on call, and if you must bring it into your room, set it far away from your bed. Avoid screens (including TVs) in your room, and never check work email or dive into a productive task in your bed. Reserve that space for rest and relaxation, or else your mind will learn to run through productive and anxious tasks while you’re trying to sleep.
Shift nurses have a difficult task on their hands when it comes to establishing a strong sleep schedule, but it’s far from impossible. Commit to a regular routine and good sleep hygiene practices, and you’ll see the difference!
By Julia Merrill