Working doubles: this is something that most, if not all, nurses deal with. It’s even harder when your double shift includes a night shift. Staying awake and being able to think critically amidst fatigue is no small feat. You probably have plenty of things to do that keep you awake, but are you making one of these common mistakes?
Here are some big no-no’s when you’re stacking those shifts.
1. Gorging Down a Big Meal Don’t have time to eat? Make time. It’s never good to eat huge meals at once. It’s bad for your health. It makes you gain weight. It makes you sluggish and sleepy afterwards. Instead, take a minute or two to snack every now and then. Take a few short breaks instead of one long one.
2. Dimming the Lights Is it night-time and the flourescent lights are burning your retinas? Let them! Dimming the lights will put you to sleep like a baby. Light plays a huge part in our sleep-wake cycles. In fact, studies have shown that blue light is what actually keeps us awake (it simulates the sky). However, white light contains blue light, and has the same effect. So if you’re feeling sleepy, go somewhere bright. Whatever you do, don’t simulate a sleeping environment (dark and quiet).
3. Abusing Caffeine Coffee, energy drinks, and tea help us to stay awake and alert, but don’t overdo it! We all learn in nursing school that caffeine is a diuretic, increases heart rate, and can be addictive. Don’t become dependent on caffeine. As tough as it may be, you might be better off using other methods to stay awake.
4. Working More than 16 Hours Sixteen hours is a lot. But we’ve all heard those horror stories from people who have pulled 20, 24, 30+ hour shifts! Although it makes for a great story and bragging rights, it can actually be dangerous to work for so long without sleep. Know your limits, and be aware of your responsibilities as a healthcare worker.
5. Eating Sleepy Foods Tryptophan. You might associate the word with Turkey, but did you know yogurt, dairy, nuts, seeds, soy products, leafy green vegetables, seafood, pork and eggs all have higher levels of tryptophan than turkey?
6. Driving Home Sleepy Driving home after a long shift? Are you blinking often, or even nodding off at the wheel? According to the New England Journal of Medicine, medical interns who worked shifts of longer than 24 were more than twice as likely to have a car crash leaving the hospital and five times as likely to have a “near miss” incident on the road. That goes for nurses too.