Nourish Your Body and Get Your Zzzs
Hello, Healthy Nurses!
I hope that you’ve been getting a good night’s sleep—or a good day’s sleep if you work nights. I’ve been a pediatric nurse for 19 years and have worked both shifts. While the night shift was not for me, I’m glad that I experienced it for a couple of years; now I know what it’s like. After working through the night, I used to come home in the morning thinking I had enough energy for an activity or two. Instead, I would pass out in my warm, cozy bed in less than the time it took to brew a pot of coffee. I also know what it feels like to wake up at 4 p.m. after sleeping for eight hours straight, only to remain exhausted. I’ve also appreciated the joy of doing three nights in a row and having that fourth night to just lie on the couch and watch my favorite show. When I started working days, I experienced rising at 5 a.m. to work at 7 a.m., but I currently work in pediatric same-day surgery, which has me waking at 4 a.m. to start at 6 a.m.
Whatever shift and unit I am working, I know that I require one important thing that can help me have my safest and most productive days at work. That one thing is sleep! All nurses need adequate rest to be the best they can be.
When you sleep between six and eight hours and your alarm clock sounds, do feel rested? When your feet hit the floor, are you already thinking about the next time you can crawl back into bed? We’ve all been there. It’s the life of a shift worker, so they say. Is there any hope for restful sleep?
I’m here to reassure you that there is hope.
Four years ago, when I started working in pediatric same-day surgery, I had to be at work by 6 a.m. I was previously working 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the pediatric emergency room. Wow, the 60-minute difference in my start time was a real game changer! I found that my usual 10-10:30 p.m. bedtime wasn’t cutting it. I noticed my body drained of energy around the tenth hour of my shift. I felt like a 2-year-old needing a nap, but eventually I found myself readying for bed about an hour earlier. My body naturally worked its way toward a bedtime that helped me to feel more refreshed during my shifts. Also, I have had a pretty dedicated morning routine, and once I started realizing how awesome that routine made me feel, I decided to try having an equally dedicated night time routine. I started drinking a “bedtime” tea (the Yogi brand I get at Whole Foods is my favorite). It’s warm and calming, and drinking this tea alerts my body that it’s time for bed.
I believe that falling asleep is pretty hard for some of us. Our brains are still running through the events of the day. We run through everything we didn’t accomplish, all of the things on our to-do lists, the conversations we had that day and the ones we want or don’t want to have tomorrow. Most nights, the shut off valve is pretty difficult to find. How do we combat it? How do we start to wind our minds down? I find that guided meditation helps. I pull up a “nighttime” meditation from YouTube (I really enjoy Jason Stephenson) and I fall asleep to soft-spoken words, music or nature sounds. I have been doing this for over a year, and it has helped me tremendously. And thanks to technology, it is extremely portable.
Let’s be honest. The older we get, the more we realize that we’re still like our 2-year-old selves when we’re hungry and tired. This can be detrimental to our own health, but might also affect our interactions with families, patients and coworkers. For the sake of everyone, we need to nourish our bodies and get our zzzs.
Are you feeling your best after you rest? Here is an article with great tips on preparing for a restful bedtime. And here’s to you and your sleep!
Katie M. Carroll, BSN, RN, CHC, CPT, and the Healthy Nurse, Healthy New Jersey Team
P.S. Win a Healthy Sleep Kit by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org describing how you incorporate the information described in this column to become a healthier New Jersey nurse. Two lucky Healthy Nurses will win!
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