15 Tips on Surviving Nightshift for Support Workers

15 Tips on Surviving Nightshift for Support Workers

I've gathered quite a few strategies over the years talking to my team and doing nightshift myself.  It can be a hard slog staying awake when you don't have the right preparation before your shift. I thought I'd write my top tips for surviving and recovering from nightshift for hard working supports and families.

Before nightshift

I've used two methods which work quite well.

1. Go to Bed the night before at the same time as usual, and lay down for a long afternoon sleep before your shift. This can be tricky to get to sleep. I've used sleep hypnosis and meditation vids on Youtube. Blockout curtain and/or eye mask is a must. A bit of TLC with a morning walk or pilates and some good music will help to tire you out, whatever your jam is.

If you love coffee, drink decaf in the morning or your head will still be buzzing by the afternoon. 

2. The night before, stay up LATE. I'm talking the wee hours of the morning. Push it out. Then sleep like the dead for at least 7 hours and have an afternoon nap as little refresher.   

On nightshift 

3. Drink caffeine, but not too much.  Oddly enough, caffeine can make you fatigued if you overload. Be careful about drinking coffee near the end of your shift as it will slow your recovery.  

4. Drink water. Water will keep you awake. Fatigue is one of the early warning signs of dehydration.

5. Move around when you start to feel the slump. Get up and shake it out. 

6. Thump your chest with your fist aka Wolf of Wall Street style. It will invigorate your lungs and push oxygen through your body. Sing along if you wish. Try not to wake your client.

7. Slap your face. I'm not kidding. You'll feel instantly alert. Give it a good whack or two.

8. Eat great food. Big meals and fast digesting carbs will send you to sleep, so stick to proteins, salads, and slow release carbs like nuts and beans. Try home made protein balls if you need a choccy fix.  I get my inspiration from the Boost Juice protein balls. They are delish.

After nightshift

9. Try to ease into sleep again. I find after a nightshift I need some time to decompress at home before I hop into bed.  Have a shower, read a book, take care of yourself.

10. Consecutive nightshifts are easier on your body than swapping between night and day shifts. Try to plan your shifts well in advance.

11. Spending most of your waking hours in the dark can lead to depression due to lack of Vitamin D. Be sure to give yourself a break and get some sun or take supplements.  

Other tips  

12Google nightshift memes and send them to your friends to laugh at. Just because.   

13. Stimulate your vagus nerve if you feel stress or anxiety.  Two sharp breaths in through the nose, one long breath out.  The vagus system acts to counterbalance the fight or flight system and triggers a relaxation response.

14. Buy some blue light glasses to get to sleep quicker. Blue light from devices has been proven to increase your mental alertness. This isn't what you want if you're in the habit of scrolling just before bedtime.

15. Engage in social networks. Keep in contact with family and friends outside of your home.  Live as normal a life as possible if you're on recurring nightshifts. 

Finally, fatigue from shift work contributes to up to 50 per cent increased risk of occupational injury, absenteeism and errors. Please be aware of the warning signs. If you are experiencing a great deal of overwhelm, stress and anxiety about your shift work, you can call Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Don't leave it until it's too late. Shift work isn't for everyone, so give yourself a break.


    Take care of yourselves and stay happy!

    Amanda Watterson


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