CNA Night Shift: 9 Tips from Experienced CNAs

Night shifts are a necessary part of medical setting jobs.

In any inpatient facility or hospital, activity is slower at night, but nursing care continues.

Often, new employees work only night shifts until a day-time position opens.

Some facilities arrange rotating shifts or make schedules in a way that night shifts of staff that’s on vacation is filled.

One of the biggest challenges for CNAs can be adapting to night shifts.

Their duties are pretty much the same as during the day shift, but fatigue can make them seem harder.

When it’s dark, the brain tells us to slow down and sleep.

The hormones that keep our internal “clocks” on the schedule are being released, so we can stay alert during the day.

So staying awake all night is confusing both for the brain and body.

Not only surviving but also thriving on the night shift requires good rest.

A good sleep during the day is essential.

Keep the Same Sleep Schedule

Even if sometimes you need to interrupt your sleep for an important activity, it’s best to maintain the same sleep pattern.

Whether you prefer to stay awake for some time or go directly to bed when you get home, keep up to this schedule.

Mimic Night During the Day

Make your bedroom as dark as you can with dark shades or curtains.

Cover your eyes with a sleep mask to keep them from sensing light.

When your brain perceives darkness, it produces the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Also, use earplugs to keep daytime noise out.

Some people also like a phone app or white noise machine to block the noise with soft moving air.

Be Careful with Caffeine

Caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, tea) can give you an energy boost at the beginning of your shift, and it can be tempting to continue it throughout the night.

But you should stop having it at least four hours before your shift ends, so you’ll be able to sleep when you get home.

Eat a Good “Breakfast” Before Work

You need fuel through the day, or night, in this case.

Don’t have sugar or refined food before and throughout your shift.

Get some protein, vegetables, fruit, or nuts for snacks.

Having small portions every few hours will help you keep your blood sugar stable.

Also, remember to stay hydrated.

Lighting is Important

You need a light source during the shift to “fool” your brain.

In most facilities, the lights are dimmed at night so residents and patients can sleep.

Keep the lights turned up in a break room and nursing station.

However, when you go home, put on sunglasses to reduce the daylight, which can stimulate your brain.

Keep Busy All Night

Typically, night shifts have responsibilities to support day shifts, which are busier.

Stocking supplies, wiping wheelchairs, folding linens, cleaning work areas, and assisting early-risers are among them.

For slow nights, consider bringing something to do, such as Sudoku puzzles, a magazine, or a book, or just knitting.

Something simple that can occupy your brain, and what you can quickly set aside to help a patient.

Get to Know Your Co-workers

When you’re engaged with other people, time goes by faster.

Help each other.

You’ll get creative when a glitch pops up since you have fewer resources than during the day.

You can also get to know each other.

Night shifts create lifelong friendships.

Create a Community of Support

Working night shifts can be stressful not only for you but also for your family or friends.

As you’re working on a different schedule from them, it can take a while for them to realize that when you’re at home during the day doesn’t mean you’re available.

You need your sleep.

Tell them not to call unless it’s an emergency.

Set a certain time for communication.

Use bulletin boards and notes for updates and plan date nights and family time for your days off.

See a Doctor if Nothing Works

Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep.

While it seems to get you to sleep, it actually keeps you awake while metabolizing.

You can use over-the-counter sleep aids or melatonin supplements you can get from a pharmacy or drug store.

But if you notice that you need to take them regularly, it’s time to visit a doctor.

Before you get to sleeping pills, see your primary care provider.

They can assess your overall health and determine if you have any other sleep conditions, such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

Are There Any Benefits to Staying on the Night Shift?

Some people find they actually enjoy working night shifts and choose them for the following reasons:

  • Shift differential – With a higher hourly rate for night shifts (and sometimes more for weekend nights), your paycheck can be significantly higher.
  • Better care for patients and residents – When you’re not dealing only with meals, visitors, therapy, and doctors, you can provide care that better fits the needs of your patient. If they want to talk, you will have time for it.
  • Peaceful and relaxed environment – There are fewer visitors, and most residents are sleeping. You’ll be busy assisting and monitoring residents, but with no interruptions and noise of the daytime.
  • Good team spirit – There are fewer employees during night shifts, so you and your co-workers help each other. And with things being less hectic, you can talk to them and learn more about each other. Co-workers, sometimes, go to get breakfast together after finishing their shifts.
  • More family time – You have to admit that everything happens during the day. School, medical appointments, even hair-stylists are easier to schedule. You will be able to take care of things, but be careful about overdoing.

Getting good sleep is essential to stay alert, safe, and react quickly.

If you plan a good rest after every night shift, you can avoid chronic sleep deprivation and complications they can cause.

They can lead to high blood pressure, depression, and cardiac disease.

After some time, you will find methods that work the best for you.

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