Sleep Cycles

One of the trickier aspects of working night shift is figuring out when to be awake and when to be asleep on the days you’re not working (this is particularly difficult on the weeks when you work one-on, one-off, two-on or some similar pattern).

For example, do you stay awake the night before so that your body can readjust to a different clock? Do you stay awake at night only and sleep your days away, and what does this mean for your family/social life? How about after you work…do you go home from a shift and immediately crash (and suffer possible insomnia that night) or try to make it through the day bleary-eyed so that you can go back to a “normal” sleep schedule?

I guess what I’m realizing is that there is no such thing as a normal sleep schedule when you work nights. I’m still trying to figure out the best option for me. Lately I’ve been so tired that it isn’t a problem to sleep the night before I work and still get in a good four- or five-hour nap the day of.

Thankfully we are able to self-schedule on our unit, so every six weeks I will be trying different combinations until I find one that feels right, hopefully by early 2013. The only expectations are that we work every other weekend (which means Saturday-Sunday at our hospital) and be flexible about potentially switching around before the schedule is finalized if they realize we are over-/under-staffed. Our night shift scheduling committee is very accommodating and understanding, and it sounds as if getting a personally undesirable schedule is rare.

What about you, fellow night owls? How do you adjust your sleep cycles to survive working noc shift and still have a life? Do you need lots of sleep before and after you work or can you function better on fumes than I can? Share your tricks of the trade! 🙂

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