Nursing is a tough gig no matter what shift you work. But there is nothing harder than rotating shifts that flip-flop from days to nights. How can you survive working these crazy shifts and not let them interfere with your life, family and circadian rhythm?
If your manager will allow, ask to be rotated between day and night rotations, instead of night to day. It's a little easier on your body when you work the day/night, because your body can adjust a bit better when you give it the sleep it needs.
If you have to work a day/ night rotation then make it easier on yourself by preparing for the switch ahead of time. Nurses that work rotating shifts generally have a few days off in between. If that's the case then try to stay up later each day to get your body adjusted. This will help your circadian rhythm not go haywire when the time comes to work the night shift. Plus you will be used to staying up later so you'll be less tired.
The day of your first night shift, try to do a little napping a few hours before you go to work. Even if you don't sleep, your body will be rested and refreshed.
If you are a coffee drinker, (which most night shift nurses are), then drink some coffee during the day. Caffeine stays around for a while in your body, so take advantage of it. Just make sure you stop drinking the caffeine around 3 am, or you won't sleep during the day.
When you get home, after your shift, try to wind down. Create a "night time" atmosphere, even though it's broad daylight. The best purchase you can make is a good room darkening shade. All room darkening shades are not created equal. Here are some good ones that work for me. Click here.
Try some valerian root extract. It's a natural herb that will help you relax. Chamomile tea is also a great option. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the pineal gland of the brain. Its function is to alert the body, (and the brain), that it's time to sleep. It's the best thing I've found for sleep so far and will not leave you groggy when you wake up. You'll sleep great and wake up refreshed. You can even get them in gummy form.
Calcium should always be taken before you go to bed. It's not really utilized as it should be. Calcium is a natural sedative, which is why many people drink hot milk before bed time. It's not really the milk that puts you to sleep, it's the calcium in the milk.
One of the biggest frustrations of night nurses is that life goes on when you're trying to sleep. Tell your friends and family that you sleep during the day and not to call you. You may have to remind them of this frequently. Put a sign on your front door, so the friendly Jehovah's Witness and the guy trying to sell you a ton of frozen meat, will leave you the heck alone. Turn your phone off and pray that your annoying neighbor doesn't decide to mow his yard for three hours, just when you've finally nodded off.
I always use white noise. It helps me fall asleep and drowns out any noise from the outside. Amazon has a white noise machine that works great. You can also just buy a fan and if you don't like the air blowing on you, turn it around. That way you'll still get the noise without the air blowing at you.