I have found that being a nurse is similar to being in the military. There are always bright-eyed new nurses who look at you while they are learning, snickering while asking about your age or how long you’ve been doing this. They think it’s because of your lack of education on everything nursing related, but they’re wrong… Well, maybe it is partially because of that. I am now at the ripe age of 48 and still love my job as a staff nurse on a Medical-Surgical floor. However; let me tell you there were days where I was tempted to pull my hair out with one bad encounter after another. Nowadays, those experiences no longer happen as much (I think), but back then I thought I was the only one out there that experienced this.
In this blog post I would suggest 20 tips for CNAs to help them sleep better, whether they’re on a day shift, an evening shift, or a night shift, those tips allow you have more energy during your work hour and deliver a more pleasant patient experience!
1. Allow yourself to eat breakfast before your shift starts
I know so many nurses who work 7 am to 3 pm and won’t eat breakfast before they go to work because it will “ruin their appetite.” Well, let me tell you something… You aren’t going to be able to function at your best if you don’t have eaten anything. I’m not saying force yourself to eat a large meal or else you’ll look like this , but try eating a piece of toast or drinking some oatmeal before you start your shift. Trust me, having food in your stomach is better than not having any energy!
2. Take a nap during your lunch
If you work 7 am to 3 pm, you usually get 30 minutes for an “un-nap” (a.k.a. lunch/dinner break). It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing! I know some nurses who bring their laptop with them and watch Netflix while they’re eating, but it could be dangerous if you fall asleep while watching your favorite show! Sit down in a chair or lay on the floor near your locker so that when someone walks by, they’ll think you are just resting instead of being comatose. The amount of energy you have during your night shift is directly related to how much sleep you got during the day… Or didn’t get.
3. Use your PTO (Paid Time Off) when you get the chance
Nowadays, nurses are working more hours than ever before. I know you’re tired and want to go home, but if you haven’t used up all your PTO yet then take advantage of the time that’s left over! This is especially true when you work in an ER or inpatient unit. You never know when a patient will come in with a gun shot wound or something life-threatening. It doesn’t hurt to have extra time off saved up so you can take care of yourself. Let’s say one day you decide not to use your PTO for whatever reason… The next day could be the same situation where someone comes into your ED with multiple stab wounds and you may not be able to get time off.
4. Be careful about how much caffeine you drink during the day
Yes, caffeine can help you stay awake when you’re sleepy… But too much of it isn’t good for you. The Mayo Clinic lists caffeine as a drug because it can be addicting! It’s important to look at how much caffeine is in the drinks and food that you ingest throughout your day!
These are some of the most common sources of caffeine:
- Coffee/tea (1 cup) = 100-150mg of caffeine
- Energy drinks (1 bottle) = 80mg of caffeine
- Soda (12 oz.) = 40-50mg of caffeine
- Chocolate milk/desserts (1 serving) = 24mg of caffeine
- Yogurt (8 oz.) = 16-24mg of caffeine.
That means if you drink 2 energy drinks, 1 caffeinated soda, and a cup of coffee throughout your day then that’s already 300 mg! You may start feeling jittery, anxious, or nauseous.
If you’re pounding back 5 sodas + an energy drink per day on top of your 3 cups of coffee then I would suggest cutting back because it doesn’t help when you feel like this. It takes about 30 minutes for the effects of caffeine to kick in so that’s why nurses who work nights end up drinking a lot more caffeine at home… They made a pot before they got off work but didn’t drink much after their last patient.
5. Limit how much sugar you eat during your shift
I’m willing to bet that you’ve had a can of soda, pastry, or piece of candy within the past 8 hours… It’s important to stay away from sugar because it will only give you short bursts of energy followed by mood swings/crashes. That is why some people are bouncy one second and then are snoring 20 minutes later! A better choice would be 5-Hour Energy because it has zero sugar and caffeine combined. I know some nurses who take 2 at a time so they feel rejuvenated throughout their entire shift instead of crashing after having 4 cups of coffee.
6. Don’t take off your shoes until your schedule is up
Yes, it is important to take care of your feet because you could end up with a sprained ankle from over-pronating. Also, be sure to walk around at least once an hour whether that’s 5 minutes or 15 minutes doesn’t matter as long as you can move a little bit! The worst thing you can do is sit all day no matter how tired you are. If I have a busy night and I know my patients will keep me up until the next morning then I try to stand as much as possible so when I get home my legs don’t feel like Jell-O.
7. Install apps on your phone that allow you to sleep while you’re at work
Apple users will love the app called ” White Noise Lite ” because it’s free to use and has a 5 star rating! You can download as many sounds as you like such as rain, forest, beach, brook (I like this one ) and noise machines. I also suggest getting an app that tracks your sleep to make sure that you’re getting enough rest each night/week.
If you’re not sleeping 7-8 hours then at least take a 20 minute nap during your shift if possible… That should be plenty of time for you to recharge and get ready for the next round of patients! Amazon prime members may want to try Amazon prime instant video which allows you to download movies/TV shows to your phone so you can watch it anywhere! That means if you have a long drive home, download an episode of “Friends” and catch up on what you missed the night before.
8. Drink lots of water during your shift
We already know this but don’t forget to drink 2 liters (64 oz.) throughout your shift so you don’t get dehydrated… But, stay away from water that has fluoride in it such as tap water or bottled water that hasn’t been purified well enough. This is because fluoride isn’t good for us because it’s just another chemical/drug that doctors inject into our bodies without consent. Fluoride can lower IQ levels and even cause cancer. It may be a good idea to invest in a reverse osmosis system that can attach to your faucet or buy bottled water from Walmart since they only cost $1 for 24 bottles.
9. Get three balanced males/day
No joke, this is probably the most important tip on this list because if you don’t get three balanced meals throughout your shift then you’ll be super hungry and tired which will lead to weight gain. A good combination would be breakfast-lunch-dinner or lunch-dinner-supper depending on what time of day your shift starts. If you work from 1 AM – 9 AM , then dinner should be breakfast and supper can be lunch… That way you won’t feel “weird” going out to eat a meal that typically happens at night time (breakfast) or a meal that typically happens during the daytime (lunch).
It’s also a good idea to have snacks in between meals like fruits (bananas, apples, oranges), vegetables (carrots, celery) and maybe even peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to keep you full for longer periods of time. You can also download an app called ” Healthy Out ” that shows the nutritional value of the foods at restaurants which is very helpful when it comes to eating right!
10. Get some sunshine and exercise
This may seem like a “no-brainer” for many people but not everyone is aware that exercise and sunlight are main keys in staying healthy. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly don’t require as much sleep as those who don’t since they’re able to go into the deeper stages of sleep easier (stage 3 & 4). Also, getting sunlight helps regulate our body clock (circadian rhythm) which affects our sleep/wake cycle. I’ve heard of some nurses staying up all night and then going for a jog early in the morning before work; however, this isn’t recommended for everyone as you should always talk with your doctor first!
12. Avoid insomnia causers in the evening
This means no caffeine, nicotine, loud noises/music, or bright lights within two hours of going to bed… If you drink coffee then I suggest only drinking 2 cups in the morning because having any more than that may interfere with sleep. Smokers must stop their nicotine addiction because it stimulates the nervous system and prevents proper rest even if you go to sleep at 10pm.
Loud noises from cars driving down the street or music playing in your room will also keep you up all night so turn those off as well. Have a dim light from a small lamp on while getting ready for bed so you don’t trip over things but make sure to turn it off when going under the covers.
13. Avoid naps after 4 pm
Naps are extremely helpful when we’re working night shift or when we’re sleeping during the day, but doing too much of it can actually take away from our sleep. Our bodies release cortisol to keep us awake so if we keep stimulating our brains with caffeine and other stimulants along with napping, this will definitely affect your ability to fall asleep at night.
18. Take a shower before bed
This may seem like an obvious tip but don’t forget to take off all that make-up and wash your face before bed! Not washing our faces (especially after sweating) can lead to acne which can make us feel embarrassed around others. Taking 20 minutes out of your sleep time to clean yourself up will help boost self-confidence and even leave you feeling rejuvenated throughout the night. It’s also important to moisturize skin before sleeping because this helps prevent wrinkles (and who doesn’t want to look younger?) by nourishing the skin with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
11. Avoid sugar before bed
Sugar is an arousal nutrient that stimulates the brain and can keep you up at night. Avoid eating foods such as candy bars, chocolate, cakes, ice cream, etc… within two hours of going to sleep because they will cause your blood sugar to spike which will keep you awake.
The worst thing you can eat before bed is pizza because it contains cheese and dairy which both contain casein protein which digests slowly and therefore stays in your system long after digestion has finished. Pizza also contains gluten which takes even longer for our bodies to digest so we often experience bloating and swelling shortly after eating it!
14. Prepare a pot of tea before bed
I like to drink decaffeinated herbal teas that help me relax at night. Teas such as chamomile, lavender, valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, etc… are all great for relaxing the muscles and making you feel sleepy. Lavender tea has even been known to improve mood so I notice myself feeling happier than normal after drinking some before bedtime. This is also good for people with insomnia since many of these contain GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which helps our brains enter into the sleep cycle more easily.
17. Read a book before bed
I know, I know…reading a book while lying in bed sounds so boring! However, there are some books out there that are very soothing and calming while others might be more exciting to read before falling asleep. I suggest reading articles on your phone if you have trouble switching off your brain since many of them are based on scientific studies which can relax our minds even though they’re about serious subjects. If that doesn’t work for you then try listening to an audio-book or some relaxing music to help lull you into a deep sleep.
15. Turn your cellphone off
Have you ever noticed how many nurses are texting, tweeting, or checking emails before going to bed? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends playing games such as candy crush or fruit ninja that they downloaded during their shift! Many nurses may not realize how addictive this can be, causing them to wake up their brains when they should be winding down. This will also lead to a lower quality of sleep which means you’ll feel tired the next day and won’t have much energy for your shift.
16. Favor cotton sheets and pillows
Cotton sheets and pillows are better for our skin because they don’t cause us to sweat or get rashes from sleeping on them all night long. Think about how many patients there are in a hospital that have bed bugs, lice, rashes, etc… If we’re having skin discomfort then chances are it’s transferring over to our patients as well! It’s also suggested that instead of using 2 pillows, you use one because it keeps your spine straighter which allows for the best breathing abilities.
19. Sleep in a cool, quiet place
Don’t sleep in a noisy place because you’ll have trouble sleeping through outside noises no matter how tired you are. Sleeping at night is based solely on circadian rhythm (the internal clock that regulates when we feel awake and sleepy) and if your room isn’t peaceful then there’s a big chance that you won’t get enough sleep. You may also want to invest in blackout curtains for your windows or wear an eye mask while you rest so light doesn’t affect your circadian rhythm either… But remember to be reasonable about this tip because we all know blackout curtains can take a toll on your wallet!
20. Get enough sleep!
Yes, this one was obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people ignore it! Our bodies need about 7-9 hours of sleep in order to function properly, otherwise we may feel lazy or overly emotional due to lack of rest… And these are not things that good nurses should have. So, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep before your shift… It’s better if you can get 8 but don’t push yourself too hard either because that will lead to mistakes and/or health problems later down the road.