Night Shift and Finding Health

So this post is something that is still a work in progress, but also something I have been working so hard on for almost two years. How to maintain some balance of health and normality while working night shift.

I was one of the new grads that was not afraid of night shift. I was excited to earn some extra money to put towards loans and our wedding. I had worked nights one shift per week in nursing school, and thought I would transition to full time with no problem–after all, no school or other part time job to coordinate with, should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. So, so wrong.

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I quickly found out full time night shift (7pm-7am three shifts per week) was NOTHING like once a week. Instead of missing out on one half day for sleeping, I was adding on sleep at the beginning of my shift, and then sleeping through my first day off. So much for 3 on, 4 off. More like 5 on, drag through one day off, have one full, decent day off before I had to switch back my routine. Then, throw in some overtime, on call, or a week where I didn’t get my preffered schedule of three in a row and I was worthless.

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Shout out to my amazing husband for all the laundry, housework, and grocery shopping that he completed during this time. Because I was barely awake to function most days.

Needless to say, I had a hard time keeping up on my workouts and eating healthy at the beginning. My first “day off” I came home and slept until 3 or 4pm, and it took me about 1-2 hours to wake up and start to function. My husband was usually hungry by then, so we made dinner or ordered something (cheap, thanks to our budget) and ate. After the food settled, my husband headed to bed and I was either up watching Netflix for several hours, reading, or just mindlessly clicking through the internet.

Fast forward a year and I realized I had to change. When I decided to compete in another bikini competition, I knew excuses were not going to suffice. So I’ve changed some habits, made different priorities, and found that I am much more alert, active, and happy as a result. Keep in mind, I also work 3 days away from home as a travel nurse now so that has taken some adjusting, but I’ve stuck to it and reaped the benefits! Side note: I also joined a $10/month gym away from home so I could fit in workouts if my hotel doesn’t have a good setup.

My work and workout schedule usually looks like this:

Day one of work: Wake up around noon, get in a workout, pack up my food, drive 2 hours to my assignment. Work 7pm-730am.

Sleep 9am-3pm

Wake up, drink some preworkout, make it to the gym by 3:30. Work out 3:30-4:45, shower, eat, work by 6:45.

Sleep 9am-3pm

Same routine for shift three. I usually use C4 or F.E.A.R. as a good way to wake myself up before I work out. C4 has more of a tingle, and F.E.A.R. is very potent, but I am usually super groggy and they give me just enough get up and go to make it through my workout. I generally don’t use either of these on days off when I get more rest.

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After day three, I drive home 2 hours. Sleep 10:30-2:45. I get up earlier and purposely sleep less this day because I want to intentionally reverse my schedule if I have 3-4 days off.

On my first day home, my husband and I usually work out together in the evening, and I am able to head to bed between midnight and 1 am. I sleep until 9 or 10 on my days off, and maintain a happy life this way. I feel better when I “flip” my schedule back to days, but I also know people who stay on a more nocturnal schedule and that works for them!

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Most important tips:

Take advantage of your days off! Workouts on work days are generally not my best, so I try to lift as heavy as possible on my days off.

Eat. Good. Food. I have found maintaining nutrition on night shift is a lot easier than fitting in workouts. I can easily throw together a tuna salad, greek yogurt, and veggies to take to work. If you’re feeling too tired to get up early and move, set aside 10 minutes to make sure your meals are healthy. I feel like sh*t if I eat junk all night.

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Get some sunshine. If it’s nice out, I do my cardio outside. If I can eat dinner on the patio, I do it. Anything to squeeze in some fresh air before spending 12 hours in a semi-lit hospital hall. I also go outside a LOT on my days off.

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Give yourself grace. Some nights are taxing. I won’t go into the ugliest aspects of nursing, but if you leave work on the verge of tears, or are haunted by something that you had to handle, give yourself some extra sleep and push harder the next opportunity you get. Working night shift is necessary for patient care, and maintaining your physical health is so important, but mental health is critical as well.

Feel free to message me or comment if you have any questions or feedback!

With love and working out,

Alex

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