9 Survival Tips for Nurses Working the Night Shift

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Nursing is a demanding profession that often requires long and grueling hours. For those who work the night shift or “graveyard shift”, the challenges are even greater. Night shifts disrupt your sleep cycle, making it difficult to stay awake and stay focused. If you aren’t careful, working nights may negatively impact your overall health and well-being. As a night nurse, it is important to take steps to survive and thrive in the night shift and ensure that you are able to provide the best care possible to your patients. In this blog, we explore some tips and strategies for surviving the night shift as a nurse.



1. Get Adequate Sleep



When your shift has ended and it is time to go to bed, make sure your sleep space is conducive to rest. Our bodies and minds use light to determine whether we should be awake or asleep. One of the biggest challenges of working the night shift is getting adequate sleep during the day. Although this is difficult, as your body is naturally programmed to be awake during the day and asleep at night, it is essential to be well-rested for your shift. To combat this, create a sleep-conducive environment in your bedroom. Make sure that your room is cool, quiet, and dark. Many night shift nurses have seen success with purchasing blackout curtains to block out sunlight. In addition to blocking out light, consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out any noise.



2. Plan Your Meals



Eating a healthy diet is important for maintaining your energy levels and staying alert during the night shift. Plan your meals ahead of time, and aim to eat small, frequent meals throughout the night. Avoid heavy meals and foods that are high in sugar and caffeine, as they cause a crash later. Instead, opt for foods that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.


Are you someone that needs coffee multiple times a day to stay awake? Adjust your caffeine intake to support your work and sleep schedule. Avoid early morning coffee or soda as your shift comes to an end as this makes falling asleep when you arrive home more difficult. Instead, drink a cup of coffee at the start of your shift and transition to healthy, hydrating beverages as your shift continues.



3. Stay Hydrated



It seems obvious, but hydration is key! Staying hydrated is important for your overall health and well-being, and it is especially important during the night shift. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and make it a goal to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water throughout your night shift. Again, over-caffeinating leads to dehydration, so watch your caffeine intake.



4. Wear bright colors



Wearing beautiful, bright colors helps keep you alert and boosts dopamine in your brain. Bright colors signal to your brain that it is time to be active and awake. If allowed by the hospital, select brightly colored scrubs with fun patterns to help your brain stay active during your shift.Search jobs



5. Take Breaks



As a nurse, it is tempting to work through your entire shift without taking a break. However, it is important to take regular breaks throughout the night to rest and recharge. Use your breaks to stretch, walk around and eat a healthy snack. Taking a few minutes to recharge helps you stay focused and alert throughout the night. During your break, focus on recharging your mind and body for the rest of your shift.



6. Stay Active



Staying active during the night shift is important for maintaining your energy levels and avoiding fatigue. Take regular breaks to stretch and move around and consider doing some light exercise during your break time. Even a short walk around the hospital or a quick yoga session helps you stay energized and focused throughout the night. If properly lit, walk outside and breathe in some fresh air.



7. Use Light Therapy



Light therapy is a technique that involves exposing yourself to bright light to help reset your circadian rhythm. This is especially helpful for those who work the night shift. Invest in a light box or lamp and use it for 30-60 minutes before you start your shift. This helps you stay alert and focused throughout the night, and makes it easier to sleep during the day. Light therapy also decreases anxiety and depression.



8. Connect with Colleagues



Working the night shift is lonely, as you are one of the few people working in your department. To combat this, try to connect with your colleagues during your shift. Take breaks together, grab a cup of coffee or chat with each other during downtime. Building a sense of community and support among your colleagues makes the night shift feel less isolating and more manageable. Building bonds with coworkers also boosts serotonin, giving you more energy throughout your night shift.



9. Remember Your Self-Care



Self-care is essential for night shift nurses. Taking care of your physical and mental health helps you avoid burnout and keeps your motivation levels high.


It is suggested to establish a wind-down routine after shifts or decompress in the car on the way home. Try listening to calm music, meditating or writing in a journal before going to sleep.


Use a consistent bedtime routine so your body knows it is time to start falling asleep. You might spend 10 minutes soaking in a bath, reading a book or doing some light stretches. Minimize watching television and smartphones before sleep and stick to your schedule. Screens trigger signals in your brain to keep you awake.


Just because you are working the night shift does not mean you shouldn’t socialize. Stay in touch with friends and family. Close connections are important to your mental and emotional health. Remember to exercise regularly if you’re able to, practice mindfulness and manage your stress levels.


Stress causes headaches, sleepless days, jaw pain and frequent mood swings. Try to find a way to do something you enjoy each day, such as reading a book, exercising with friends, practicing meditation, gardening or walking your dog.


In conclusion, working as a night shift nurse is challenging, but it is possible to survive and thrive with the right strategies in place. By taking these night shift tips, you’ll successfully get through your shifts and be refreshed during your off time.


Are you looking for a new local or traveling nurse position? Contact Phaxis today!



About Phaxis



Founded in 2002, Phaxis is now one of the country’s leading recruitment firms. Specializing in healthcare, information technology, accounting, financial services recruitment, office support, legal, HR,and marketing. Phaxis partners with highly qualified talent and top employers to create rewarding career opportunities that result in long-term success for candidates and employers. Visit us at

Drew Anson

Chief Delivery Officer

Drew Anson is Chief Delivery Officer at Phaxis, a Workforce Solutions Company based in New York.

In this role, Drew leads the delivery and recruiting working closely with the leadership team to define a model that is efficient at supporting the firm’s current needs and is scalable for future growth.

Drew is a seasoned executive with more than 13 years of Services & Recruitment experience. In that time, he has supported numerous Fortune 100/500/1000 organizations across industries by providing global workforce solutions, namely resources and thought leadership for large-scale projects, implementations, and managed services.

Prior to joining Phaxis predecessor firm Park Hudson in 2021, Drew spent three years at engineering technology and talent solutions firm, Collabera, as Director of Sales in North Carolina. Earlier in his career, he spent nearly eight years at Insight Global, most recently as Sales Manager of the Columbus, OH office.

He holds a degree from Central Michigan University in Sales & Marketing.

Favorite Book:   Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
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Inspirational Quote:  “There is no substitute for hard work.”  – Thomas A. Edison