This was one of the first questions that I asked my mom who used to work nights as a RN. I also got some advice from a coworker who’s been working nights for a year and half and so far, it’s worked out. I followed their recommendations and I made it through my first three 12-hour night shifts in a row without being overly tired. I thought this was pretty helpful so here it goes.
There are three scenarios.
1) The Night Before the First Night Shift
Sleep in to about 9am-11am. Eat lunch, run some errands. About 3-4 hours before you plan on leaving home to go to work, take a nap. Get up about 1 hour prior to eat, get food ready, and change to go to work.
2) You Have a Back-to-Back Night Shift
This one is easy. Some people like to eat when they arrive home. I personally don’t. I come home, shower (to wash off all of the bacteria from the day — I don’t want to bring MRSA into my bed!!), set up my uniform and food for the next day, and sleep for 8 hours. I need 8 hours. Otherwise, I am a tired mess. But some seasoned nurses (such as my preceptor who is awesome btw) sleep for 5 hours so they can do other things. I wake up about an hour before I leave my home to eat my ‘breakfast’***.
***I thought about the definition of breakfast. Technically, after I wake up from an 8-hour sleep, I have to ‘break my fast’ by eating breakfast. But my sister claims that breakfast, lunch, dinner is defined by time of day. For example, if you sleep in until 10am and then you eat, then that is considered brunch (although my sister claims that brunch only exists on weekends. But how can that be??). I guess when I go on break, I’m either eating a 2am meal or a ‘lunch’. What do you think?***
3) The Day After The Last Night Shift
Sleep until noon (more or less). Try to stay up until 8pm-10pm. Get some errands done or just relax or go work or go to school or whatever you want to do. Then go back to sleep.
I hoped that helped. Besides sleep, probably the next important thing is what to eat. You have to fuel yourself with good energy so you can take care of others!