10 Tips To Fight Sleep Deprivation as a Nurse
No matter how old you are, what occupation you hold, or where you live in the world we can all agree that sleep is essential to functioning properly on a day-to-day basis.
That being said, as a Registered Nurse (RN) getting a full amount of sleep can be hard due to the constant and rigorous schedules they must endure. This is especially true for those who work swing shifts, rotating shifts, or night shifts. Losing a minimal amount of sleep can cause changes in a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to handle stress.
Shift Worker Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a common disorder amongst nurses. It is known as a circadian sleep disorder that affects the body’s circadian rhythm and the function of the body clock that regulates time periods for sleep.
In this podcast Nurse Alice opens up about a scary incident where she was very sleep-deprived and had a car accident. Later, she discusses advice for improving sleep quality as a sleep-deprived nurse. Listen to the Ask Nurse Alice podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Symptoms Of Shift Workers Sleep Disorder
- Lack of energy
- Increase stress
- Excessive sleepiness
- Insufficient/unrefreshing sleep
- Low sex drive
- Wrinkles and dark circles under your eyes
Of course, the easiest and most assumed treatment for lack of sleep is to sleep, but it may not be as easy as it sounds. Here are some helpful tips to defeating your SWSD:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule (even on your days off)
Setting a proper sleep schedule can help the body get the necessary amount of relaxation and energy needed in order to function properly. Although it varies from person to person, a healthy adult needs anywhere from 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep in order to fully function at their best capability.
To maintain high-quality sleep, it's important to stick to your sleep schedule - every day. Make sure to set your alarm for the same time every day.
2. Avoid eating heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine before bedtime
The body's GI system works very hard to digest food. If you eat too close to bedtime, you won't be getting high-quality sleep because your body is still awake working hard to break down the food. Avoid eating for 2-3 hours before bedtime. Don't drink alcohol or caffeine before bed. If you're starving and must eat, make sure it's something light that your body can easily digest - maybe something with tryptophan-rich foods like (that will actually make you sleepy),
3. Take a warm shower before bedtime
When your body experiences a drop in temperature, it will feel triggered to go to sleep. Give it a try!
4. Add plants to your sleep space
Yes, plants will make your space feel more serene. But, they are also fantastic air purifiers and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale during sleep. A few plants Nurse Alice recommends are,
5. Control the lighting in your room
Every wonder why you can't nap during the day? Well, your body recognizes daylight as the time to be awake. You can control this response by adding black-out shades to your sleeping space, turning off all electronic devices, and investing in a sun lamp.
6. Exercise daily
Exercise has many benefits and sleep is one of them. Exerting a lot of energy makes your body tired and want to rest.
7. Improve your sleep surface
The average life span of a good mattress is about 10 years. It's important to invest in a high-quality bed. Also, changing pillows about once a year is equally important - they change form quickly. Nurse Alice recommends adding a little lavender to your pillowcase.
8. Find the right sleep environment
When you’re a nurse, schedules can change and fluctuate at any time. You can go from working morning shifts to night shifts within a week. If you live with other people, it's important to set boundaries when it comes to your sleep. Take it a step further and put a note on your front door asking others to respect your sleep schedule and NOT ring the doorbell.
9. Incorporate noise/sounds in your sleep
Soothing sound can help with getting the sleep you need in order to feel a hundred percent ready for your next shift! Some people find it calming to have complete silence when falling asleep, while others would rather have the sound of a rainforest or white noise playing in the background. It’s all just a matter of preference and what helps you sleep at night.
10. Limit screen time
Studies show that the blue light from electronic devices (cell phone, tablet, television, etc.) impacts your body's ability to fall asleep. Turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before sleep time.
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