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10 Tips For Preparing For A Night Shift

Mohamed Basha
RN CMC Founder and CEO of TLC Nursing Association
Updated November 22, 2023
10 Tips For Preparing For A Night Shift

Being a home health nurse is hard enough. Now add a night working schedule. There are many adjustments to make in your life to ensure your safety and your patient. Your internal clock may be warning you that you should be sleeping instead of working three in the morning. Some nurses do struggle with the shift change, especially if it is a new switch. Here are a few tips and tricks to help with these overnight shifts.

Schedule your Patient’s Cares

You want to ensure that you’re providing the best is for your patients; just because you’re tired and out of your comfort zone of working overnight doesn’t mean they have to suffer. Make a schedule that space out care and maintenance for your client. You want to give yourself something to do and chat every 30 to 60 minutes.

Stay Hydrated

You want to drink a lot of water or fluids, cold liquids preferred. Fluids will help keep your body alert and the bonus of having to take bathroom breaks. Be sure to stop drinking 3 to 4 hours before you’re scheduled to sleep. This will help with getting uninterrupted sleep. It is essential after a long nightshift that you get the proper amount of sleep.

Use Caffeine Wisely and Carefully

Caffeine is every nurse’s best friend. Twelve or more hours on your feet, lifting, bending. Incredibly, there isn’t an IV hooked up to more of them. You’d think being highly caffeinated for overnight nurses is a good thing, but it isn’t. For a caffeinated loving nurse working the nightshift, be sure to start drinking at the mid-point of your shift.

Be cautious not to drink within 6 hours of when you’re expected to sleep. This may result in staying awake longer than planned. You want to avoid caffeine when you don’t need it; if you feel awake and well-rested, skip it. This will help with having it work when you need it.

A few tricks for nightshift nurses, buy that fancy coffee before your shift start for you have something to look forward to and something to help you get through the first hour of your shift. Another, if you don’t want to splurge your money on that fancy drink, bring theorems full of coffee and heat it in a microwave.

What Should you Eat?

Avoid large meals at all costs. They only make you feel even more tired and have low mobility. Please think of how you feel after a Thanksgiving meal; it wouldn’t be fun feeling that way and having to take care of someone who relies on you. You want to avoid sugar or food high in carbs before and during your shift. This will result in a burst in energy, and then the crash will come soon after.

A few tricks to fight hunger during your changes, bring snacks. High protein, such as cheese or peanut butter, crunchy snacks, such as veggies or pretzels, or cold snacks. Fruits or yogurts. These will satisfy your hunger without drowsiness. A trick, bring hard candies like mints, or if it is available, ice cubes work too.

 Keep Yourself Moving

Going to the gym before your shift is a great idea to keep you awake. The gym wakes you up and gets your blood moving. Many nurses who have a regular exercise routine also have great sleeping schedules. During your shift, you want to get up as much as possible. Even a walk or walking in place around the home or to throw out the garbage will help you stay awake.

Don’t Become too Comfortable

Avoid couches and comfy armchairs at all costs; they are meant to suck you in and allow you to fall asleep. Try sitting on the floor or a hard chair instead. If that isn’t walking, going to the kitchen sink or bathroom sink and splashing cold water on your face will help keep you up too. Stand if feeling sleepy; do some tasks to keep yourself busy and wake. Also, avoid pulling a blanket over your lap.

Keep it Light

Make sure there is always a light on in the room. You want to make sure it is lit when you are working with medication; this will help you make any vital mistakes. If the client you are working for doesn’t like the lights on in the house, go to the bathroom and stand in the light for a few minutes, it will help you wake up.

Extra Help

To help you stay awake if your client has a doctor’s appointment or an event, prep for them. Make sure that it is easier for the patient’s family. It is something to do while your client is sleeping. Re-stock any supplies, clean, sort, and organize. The family would appreciate more than you know.

Keep Your Brain Busy

There are a few things to keep your mind sharp during downtimes overnight. For example, going through emergency scenarios. I know it’s probably the last thing you want to think about, but it is better to be prepared than not. You can go over inventory sheets, read and respond to emails, research a nursing topic if you have a phone, download game apps. Bring activities with you to keep your mind busy.

Beware the Danger Zone

Between 2 in the morning and 4 in the morning is the danger zone. Most people start to feel more tired between that time. It is better to plan around that time, so you avoid falling asleep.


All these tips will help you have a successful night shift. Being a nurse is hard, and so can the changes, especially if it is something new. If you are one of those individuals that love working the overnight shift, TLC nursing has many options for all.