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How to Stay Awake While Working a Night Shift Even for the First Time

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Working a night shift can take a toll on the body. We all know that, right? I remember how difficult it was for me to get used to my new routine when I first signed up for working the night shift. It may not be easy, but it’s not an impossible task either. Once you know how to stay awake while working a night shift, the process doesn’t seem so daunting.

The thing about night shifts is that they make it hard for you to remain focused and alert. And that’s because the body is only adjusting to fit the new work schedule. So at such times, what we do is keep a constant check on the clock. All we can think of is getting back home and hitting the bed, right?

If this is how it works for you, then it’s time to change that approach. Getting your mind and body used to working a night shift makes the task easier and more comfortable. The following tips help in easing the transition from sleeping to staying awake in the night.

Know What You’re Getting Into

If you have a permanent night schedule, there’s nothing more important than adjusting the sleep cycle. This gives you an opportunity to get at least eight hours of sleep in the day. And if the night situation is temporary, then you need to know what to do and what not to do. This helps in not only keeping you awake but also encouraging a productive and safe work environment.

Nap before the night shift

Taking a nap either in the afternoon that day or right before your night shift can go a long way. You can call it banking sleep. You should make it a point to sleep for at least nine hours for an entire week before you start working the night shift. Banking some sleep is an excellent way of getting your body ready to fit the new nighttime work schedule.

Keep yourself busy

If you keep yourself idle, you will inevitably think of nothing but sleep. And we don’t want to do that now, do we? The goal is to do just the opposite, right? So it’s not only important but also necessary to stay busy.

The best way to distract your sleepy head is to engage in a new task. Being busy throughout the night does more than just that. Hours pass without you even glancing at the clock. And this way you’ll reach the end of your shift and find yourself heading back home in no time.

night shift

Photo credit: nursebuff.com

Divide your caffeine intake

Many articles like this have caffeine listed as one of the best tips for learning how to stay awake while working a night shift. And to be honest, we don’t even need someone else to tell us that, right? Chugging a giant caffeinated beverage from Starbucks is what we do to stay awake anyway. But not many of us know this, doing something like that doesn’t help you as much as you’d expect.

Consuming a large amount of caffeine at the beginning of your shift will not get you through the whole night. Instead, divide that Venti Starbucks drink into small doses to take at regular intervals throughout the night. Space them out evenly.

What such a practice does is help you stay consistently alert and focused all night long. But please make sure not to consume caffeine towards the end of your shift. Otherwise, crashing as soon as your head hits the pillow will seem like a pipe dream.

Take a short night nap

night shift

Photo credit: rocksolidstudio.in

This may be optional because not many of us can ward off the sluggishness accompanied by short naps. But a half an hour nap during the night shift is an energy-booster for some people.

If you think that you might feel inactive or lethargic afterward, then it’s best to take a coffee shot before that. Eight ounces of coffee before a short nap goes a long way in eliminating the effect of sleep inertia. So it’s safe to take that half-hour nap during your night shift without worrying about the after-effects.

Hit the bright lights

The thing about light is that it’s stronger than we think. Bright light does an excellent job at making the mind and body believe that bedtime has not arrived. The light helps in resetting our internal clock, and that’s what directs our sleep patterns. When to feel tired and when to feel alert are the things that our internal clocks decide for us. So the best way to reset the internal clock is to stay in a brightly lit room. To achieve something like this, you can even make use of light boxes that tend to produce lux from 2,000 to 10,000.

Prepare for the end of your night shift

Many of us learn how to stay awake while working a night shift but forget to brace ourselves for the end of that shift. The sleepiest time of every 12-hour clock is four to five. During daytime, it’s 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and during nighttime, it’s 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.

This is the time we need to prepare for. The negative effects of staying up all night kick in during those hours. And, fortunately enough, these are also the last hours of your night shift. So you need to prepare yourself to feel incredibly sleepy. This helps in pushing the mind and body to stay awake by using possible countermeasures.

Avoid sleeping for longer hours in the day

You cannot replicate your night sleep by sleeping for longer hours in the day. Dozing off as soon as we get back home after the night shift doesn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes, right? But this doesn’t mean that we’re knocked off for a long time.

When sleeping in the day, the chances of getting up after four hours are highly likely. Our sleep pattern tends to become fragmented. We keep waking up and falling back to sleep. And this doesn’t sound like a pleasant and comfortable experience now, does it? So the best way to go about this is to divide the sleeping period. Two sessions lasting for at least four hours each.

When you’re trying to nap for a longer time but you keep waking up, it’s better to get up rather than struggle to go back to sleep. Carry on with your day and utilize that second sleeping session at another time of the day. Preferably before you head out for your night shift.

Create a fake cycle

Establishing a fake cycle for your day-night routine is one of the best ways to learn how to stay awake while working a night shift. But do you know how to do this? It’s pretty simple. Begin your night shift by exposing yourself to bright lights and end it by wearing dark glasses. You can also make use of earplugs and a sleeping mask once you get into bed. This encourages your mind and body to believe that they’re following the usual routine as everybody else. This makes adapting to the new work schedule easier and more comfortable.

Avoid alcohol

Consuming alcohol before crashing is something that happens at night only. So it’s wrong to expect such an outcome during the daytime. Alcohol might help in falling asleep in the day, but at the same time, it causes disturbances that tend to mess with the quality of the sleep. So it’s better to keep away from alcohol when making up for lost sleep in the day.

Interact with people

Maintaining social interactions goes a long way in keeping your mind distracted. So indulge in talking with your co-workers to stay awake during the night. And this particular exercise is something that your colleagues can relate to since they’re in the same position. Engaging in a conversation, telling jokes, sharing recent downloads, or reviewing TV shows and movies are a few ideas, to begin with. Make the most of your coffee and food breaks by spending them with co-workers.

Eat healthy and exercise

night shift

Photo credit: livestrong.com

You can try implementing all the tips to learn how to stay awake while working a night shift, but the truth doesn’t change. Staying awake at night places a considerable amount of stress on the body. During the first few days, your body will fight against the change. And you don’t want to make it worse by treating your body poorly. This means eating healthy and exercising.

Staying in shape while also eating right makes both your mind and body stronger to adapt to such changes. This habit also makes it possible for your body to function even with less sleeping hours.

Staying up late to get the job done or even working a night shift can be tough on both the mind and the body. And there’s no way to avoid it given how dedicated we are towards our work. Accommodating the night shift schedule does sound like a new, exciting experience, but it can be pretty troublesome too. The primary goal is to make the experience more comfortable and less stressful. And with these helpful tips for how to stay awake while working a night shift, you’ll soon realize that you were, in fact, a night owl.

I know what it feels like to get the body adjusted to the night shift. But once you get there, the thrill of having the entire following day to yourself adds more comfort to the whole experience. It’s all about establishing the right schedule, irrespective of whether it’s in the day or the night.

Make it a point to incorporate each tip into your daily nighttime work routine. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do all of it at once. “Slow and steady wins the race,” right?

 

Resources: Work Chron, Everyday Health, Nursing Times

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