The Caregiver’s Guide To Working The Night Shift

6 Nov, 2016

The Caregiver’s Guide To Working The Night Shift

The Caregiver’s Guide To Working The Night Shift

Working nights can be a daunting task for a caregiver. How do you stay awake and alert during your shift?  Everyone is different in how their bodies react to being turned upside down from a sleeping perspective.  Here is the caregiver’s guide to working the night shift.


No sleep:  People have asked me how I switch my sleeping schedule. My personal preference when I was working full-time was to sleep a couple hours in the afternoon before my first shift and then sleep until 1:00 PM after my last shift. I’m pretty beat waking up at 1:00 PM (think if you were waking up at 1:00 AM!), but it’s what I’ve got to do to flip back to normalcy. Everyone is different though. Some people sleep for 4-5 hours before their first shift. Some are perpetual night owls and stay up until 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM each night when they aren’t working (obviously they don’t have kids that wake up at 7:30 AM 🙂 ).

Just try out different sleeping schedules to find out what works best for you. You’ll still feel pretty exhausted (from my experience), but you bounce back quicker once you figure out a good sleeping schedule.

Not As Much Staff: If you have clients that are a two-person transfer and you are the only one there (because it is nighttime), what do you do? First off, try to be proactive at the beginning of your shift. If you know that someone is in need of additional assistance for getting dressed for bed or getting to the bathroom for bedtime hygiene, help them first with the caregiver that is finishing their shift. You can always use a bedpan if a patient cannot be transferred safely at night for toileting. Be sure to pay close attention and not forget about the bedpan. This can cause serious skin breakdown and pressure ulcers.


Family Friendly: Working nights has been amazing for my little family. I have a six-year-old stepson and a two-year-old daughter. I work one to two nights a week now (I’ve decreased my shifts as our family as grown) and don’t need to get babysitters. If I work a Friday night, my husband picks up the slack that night and then watches the kids on Saturday. I know a lot of single mom nurses and caregivers that drop their kids off at school, they go sleep, and then they pick them up and don’t miss a beat.

Night Owls Are Happy: Some people function much better at nighttime than others.  I’ve found that I function much better at night than I do at 7:00 AM.  Everyone is different in their sleep cycles and what they can tolerate. It takes a few months to get used to switching days and nights.

When I was in nursing school I was terrified of the prospect of working nights. How on earth are people able to stay up until 8:00 AM? Holy cow. I would see the night nurses when I started my shift at 7:00 AM and they all looked exhausted! Little did I know at the time that I would work nights for a very long time (five years and counting!).

Overall, I am grateful to be able to work nights. It is tricky with getting adequate sleep, but I feel like it has worked well for my family and me. Give it a try! You just might like it!

-Courtney, RN


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