Working Long Hours: 5 Ways to Improve Your Sleeping Habits as a Travel Nurse
In the medical field, work never stops. Hospitals, ERs and care facilities are open around the clock, and as a travel nurse, you’re probably asked to work swing shifts, night shifts and long shifts, different from week to week and place to place. All these long and shifting hours can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle, which is essential for keeping you healthy and alert on the job. Work the best you can with the schedule you have and improve your sleeping habits with a few lifestyle adjustments. It may take some time getting used to the changes, but the results are worth the effort.
1. Earn an Advanced Degree
Adding more work to your already-packed travel nurse schedule may seem counterproductive, but earning an advanced degree or enrolling in an RN to MSN bridge program offered online – discover more here – will give you more clout wherever you work. If you have an advanced degree, you’re not only more likely to earn a promotion or raise, you can also request better hours or transfer to a stable position with more regular daytime hours. If you choose a specialization, you’re even more likely to be attractive to potential employers. Being in demand gives you the ability to pick and choose where and when you work, as a travel nurse or as a nurse with a permanent position.
Plus, opting for online courses means you can study when you have the time, no matter the hour. Study on the plane or train. If you stick to your steady sleep schedule, you’ll have plenty of time to study at night on your days off when most colleges are closed.
2. Keep a Steady Sleep Schedule
If you regularly work at night, continue to stay awake at night even when you have time off. Staying awake at night is less preferable than staying awake during the day, as the body’s natural rhythms are naturally attuned to sleeping at night. However, changing when you sleep is even more destructive to a sleep cycle than sleeping during the day regularly.
If you work a swing shift but have a few days a week of the night shift, continue staying awake at night during your off days until you have a number of earlier shifts on the rotation. Do whatever you can to minimize the changes in your sleep schedule.
3. Speak to Your HR Representative
Sometimes there’s no avoiding crazy work hours if that’s what you’re assigned and you’ve yet to earn an advanced degree to get yourself more clout. However, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through your shifts in silence. Bring up the issue of unhealthy work shifts with your HR representative, especially if you work more than 12 hours at once or work more than three 12-hour days in a row, both of which will negatively impact your productivity. Encourage your co-workers and other travel nurses experiencing similar issues to do the same; the more people who bring up the issue, the more likely your employer will be willing to make changes.
4. Skip the Caffeine
It’s tempting to rely on coffee, soda or caffeine-laden energy drinks to get you through changing shifts and time zones, but don’t. An addiction to caffeine is unhealthy, and it doesn’t provide you with enough energy to make it through a shift before you “crash” anyway. Changing your sleeping habits — staying awake at night even when you’re off, for example — will lead to more healthy energy when you need it. Regular exercise will also help you wean off your reliance on caffeine.
5. Meet With Your Doctor
If you’re still fatigued or suffering from caffeine addiction, meet with your doctor to discuss options for making your sleep more restful. As TravelNursing.com explains, too many years of not enough or too much sleep can lead to problems such as high blood pressure and weight gain. Your doctor will help you strategize a healthy sleeping routine for you, and will give you sleep aids if she thinks you need them.
If you didn’t love your job, you wouldn’t have signed up for the crazy shifts that often go hand in hand with travel nursing. However, just because you love your job taking care of others doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself. There are ways to improve your sleeping habits as a travel nurse, so start putting in the effort today to get better, more restful sleep.
About the Author: Linda Ervin is a registered nurse who’s worked in the medical field for 20 years. She remembers her days of swing shifts and little sleep. Making a few changes in her routine made her life easier.