3 nurses offer tips on managing sleep while working long shifts

Three nurses discuss how they manage their sleep schedules when working 12-hour shifts.

We invite all nurses and nursing leaders currently working in healthcare settings to participate in a series of Q&As about their experiences.

Next week's question: What should nurses look for in a job offer?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya avaidya@beckershealthcare.com by Tuesday, May 5, 5 p.m. CST.

Note: The following responses were edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is your best advice for regulating your sleep cycle after a 12-hour shift?

Winter Chambers, RN-BC. Nurse Educator at Covenant Medical Center (Lubbock, Texas): Best advice for regulating your sleep cycle after a 12-hour shift is to sleep before your shift regardless of whether you work days or nights. Sleep is vital for success in patient care, and if you go into your shift tired, the likelihood of making errors greatly increases.

Nicole Weston. Nurse in the Medical/Surgical Unit at Saint Clare's Health-Denville (N.J.): Thankfully, it is a lot easier to adapt to the schedule of day shift. I like to get a good night's sleep the night prior to my shift. I shoot for a 9 p.m. bedtime, and before bed I take a few minutes to prepare my meals for the next day and take a hot shower.

After my 12-hour shift, I come home, shower, eat dinner, make my lunch for the following day and go right back to bed. This ensures that I get the rest I need to be able to work another 12-hour shift the next day.

I also try to limit my caffeine intake after 3 p.m. so that it doesn't interfere with my sleep schedule. Following this strict routine helps to give me the energy to get through my long shift. At times it's difficult due to family or friend commitments, but everyone is very understanding of my schedule and usually works around my schedule.

Connie Gonzales, RN. Nurse Manager, Critical Care at Covenant Medical Center (Lubbock, Texas): I exercise to help sleep better.

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