Transitioning to Night Shift
I was so anxious about transitioning to nights. I mean, naturally, right? Because I've only ever done days! Even for clinicals, practicum, working as a tech, etc. And I'm naturally such a morning person that the thought of being awake at night was so strange to me and I was so sure that I'd hate every second of it. So I really had no idea what to expect. But it's actually been so much better than I expected. Like, a lot better than I expected. A ton of you have been DMing me on IG asking how it's been for not only my work life, but also my eating schedule, exercise, social life, and my relationship with Caleb, so I wanted to type it all out for you guys!
Hi! It's currently 1000 and in a bit, I'm going to work out, take Louis on a walk, and take a nap before my shift tonight. Re: things I couldn't ever see myself doing on day shift, because where oh where would I find that energy? I'm writing this after a whopping month on night shift (!!!). Needless to say, it was a transition. I asked you all for advice, especially for when to eat (duh), and so many of you had amazing tips! Here's the link to that Instagram post.
For starters, I think I prefer my nights separated into 1 night, 2 days off, and then 2 nights in a row. This is the opposite of what most people recommend: doing 3 nights in a row. I mean, getting them all out of the way is ideal, but that second night is grueling, and then the thought of having to be back for a third night in a row is just bleh. So I learned that while doing my 3 nights in a row can be cool if I wanted a ton of days off in a row, I prefer working 1 night, having 2-3 days off, then doing 2 nights back to back. This gives me some "excitement" of not having to come back after that 1 shift, and the ability to do what I need to outside of work on those 2-3 days off, then returning to work for 2 shifts.
As for my sleep schedule, I feel like I need less sleep now than I did on day shift. Let me explain. It probably has to do with the speed/intensity of the work day, too. On days, I feel like I was always on my feet, rarely got a lunch break, and the hospital was so busy with providers, additional staff, visitors, etc so that when I got home at 8PM, I would be so exhausted and I would really need those 6-8 hours of sleep. Now on nights, there are far less visitors, far less people in general in the hospital (even though this also means less resources for us), so it's a lot more peaceful. Plus, a lot of our patients are sleeping, unless they're in active labor and/or delivering. When I get home after a shift at 0800, I'm exhausted, but in a different way. I let Louis out, put out food for him, and I pass out immediately and am in a deep sleep within 10 min of laying down and I wake up around 1300-1400. And a ton of you also recommended a slew of things to help me sleep, like black out curtains and white noise machines, but I found that this eye mask is really all I need to fall asleep.
With all that being said, the night before a shift is kind of awkward. You can do two things: Stay up as late as you can and sleep as much as you can before waking up to get ready for work, OR sleep at a normal time, wake up super early (0600 works for me), do a ton of stuff to wear yourself out and take a nap before getting ready for work. I prefer sleeping normally and waking up super early to wear myself out, because wow I'm able to do so much: work out, clean the house, meal prep, run errands, write posts like this, catch up on Youtube videos, etc.
Exercise is always kinda tricky, but feels a lot more doable on nights. Because think about it, working out before a night shift is "normal" because it's 3-4PM, but working out before a day shift is 3-4AM. And if you're like me and you work out at home and you live with a partner who works normal hours, you wouldn't want to blast a workout class at 3-4AM. In terms of working out after a shift, I've never done that and can't see myself doing that, but again- seems a lot more doable in terms of time of day: compare working out at 8PM and 8AM. Idk about you, but I'd much prefer working out at 0800 than 2000 when I should be eating dinner.
Plus, like I mentioned before, I feel so much more productive on the days before going to work, like today! I haven't worked out on my consecutive work days, though, because I try to get as much sleep as I can in between 2-3 consecutive work days. I still work out 3-4 days a week, but feel less "hungover" as I did on the days after a day shift. I hope that makes sense!
In terms of my relationship with Caleb, it was weird/hard in the beginning. And in the beginning, I mean the first week. After that, it felt a lot more normal! It's always weird when you're used to sleeping in the same bed as your partner and then not sleeping with them, so we both had a hard time adjusting to the fact that 3 nights out of the week, we'd have to sleep by ourselves. But we quickly accepted that it is what it is, and it makes the nights we sleep in the same bed even sweeter. So for example, I didn't work last night and I work tonight. I woke up when he did (0630), and said goodbye to him. I'll be doing whatever I need to do while he works, taking a nap while he works, and when he gets home, we'll make and eat dinner together before I leave for work. He'll sleep while I work, and he'll leave for work right before I get home.
Let's say I worked last night and work tonight. I slept while he worked, we made dinner together, and he'll sleep while I work. But I'll be home when he gets home and repeat. If I don't work the next night, I'll take a short nap (4ish hours), so that I'm able to fall asleep that night with him (2300ish).
Compared to when I was on day shift, I'd wake up before him, kiss him good morning, and we'd both work during the day. Then I'd get home, Caleb would have dinner ready, and we'd eat and watch TV for an hour or two before we go to bed. Honestly, I feel a lot more present now even if we don't sleep together for 3 nights in a week. I don't know what it is! I'd be a zombie when I got home from day shift. But now, when I see him when he gets home, I'm awake and refreshed from my 5-6 hours of sleep.
And last but not least - my eating schedule! Honestly, this is the part I was most worried about. (Beside the obvious fear of falling asleep during my shift, duh. But I'll touch on that later.) With any kind of change in your diet, whether it be eliminating a certain food group, or changing the amount of food that you eat, you will see change in your digestion and energy levels. So I worried that with the varying times of my meals in between switching from a day of eating to a night of eating, that I wouldn't know what to expect. What scared me most would be that I wouldn't know when to eat and so I'd constantly be eating in fear of being hungry and that I'd lose control of my eating habits - with 2 months before my wedding!
But honestly, it's refreshing how simple it is. Eat when you're hungry, and remember that it all comes down to energy. You need food to sustain energy because your brain needs sugar, and that sugar needs to bind with protein to last longer. So I usually eat dinner with Caleb before I leave for work. A normal serving. Normal food. Some people recommended that I eat breakfast food because this is technically my "breakfast," but I find that kind of unnecessary, but to each his own. Then, I drink a ton of water in between this time and my "lunch" which is honestly whenever I have time, usually anywhere from midnight to 0200. This meal consists of a carb, protein, and fat (no, I don't count macros), because this is what will keep me energized and full for the rest of my shift. I try to avoid anything fried or too heavy because it'll worsen any nausea I already have from being awake that late.
I also pack snacks like greek yogurt + fruit, and Kind bars and protein bars, and nuts because you'll find that the only food available late at night is junk food. And god will those fries smell soooooo good, but I knew that it would just make me more nauseous. Trust me- I learned the hard way on my first week on nights. Don't know if I'll be able to eat a chicken quesadilla with fries at 0100 ever again. Ok, I lie - I probably will, but it will not be the same.
When I get home, I'm usually not hungry. Honestly, I'm probably still a little nauseous so I'll usually have some decaf tea or just water and then go to sleep.
Now, I know some of you guys saw my IG story the other day about my struggle with not knowing when to poop now. Omg! I really thought I was the only one! On days, I used to go every single work morning at 0530 before getting ready. But now, I really just go whenever I can, because if I set myself on a schedule, it'll be awkward either way because I'll either be pooping in the middle of my shift (I hate public bathrooms), or getting up in the middle of a deep sleep to poo. And sorry if you don't like talking about poop. But if you're reading, this, you're probably a nurse, and you probably have seen/smelled/talked about worse things than a healthy poo ;)
Okay, now let's finally talk about coffee. Wowza I drink so much coffee and wowza do I need it. I try to avoid drinking coffee right after waking up and try to save it for right before my shift. I usually drink a cup before I leave the house/after dinner, and then make a cup to take to work. If I'm really struggling during my shift, I'll either take a K-cup with me to work to brew at like 0400 (the witching hour), or I'll make some black tea. Coffee doesn't really keep me from sleeping, though, so I don't really cut myself off at a certain time, but I know some people stop drinking caffeine after 0300-0400 so they can sleep when they get home.
I hope that was helpful for some of you! To be honest though, none of this really made sense until I did it. I had to find what worked for me, and you'll find that not 1 eating schedule or sleeping schedule will work perfectly for you. And who knows, maybe in a couple of months this will all be different for me and I'll be needing way more or way less sleep and be eating a whole lot less or whole lot more? But this is what my experience has been for the past month. And as for how long I'll be on night-shift... Who knows? Our hospital opens of day shift positions every once in a while, and everyone can apply, but those positions are filled based on seniority so it may be a couple of years until I'm back on days. We'll see! I'm going to try to enjoy night shift life until then though.