Working night shift is NOT easy. I’ve heard others say:
“Nightshift takes years off your life.”
“Working night shift is equivalent to smoking cigarettes.” (That one cracks me up!)
“I’ve gained so much weight since I’ve been on night shift.”
“My depression has been so bad since I’ve been on nights.”
There could be truth to many of these statements. I’ve personally seen my friends struggle mentally and physically on night shift. Shoot, I was never a night person myself. I truly am a morning person at heart.
I started working night shift at the beginning of nursing school to help me make a little bit more money and to help me schedule my clinical days and class time better. I had to work full time during nursing school. I had no choice – I didn’t have the option of living at home and having no bills. Once I got my first nursing job, night shift was where you had to start because day shift positions were taken by the more senior people at work.
Once I moved back to Michigan and was hired into my second nursing job, the only schedule available for new staff was rotating shifts. Fit all the above quotes into the rotating schedule lifestyle because they all stand true! Rotating shift was probably the worst schedule I’ve had – and I did it for a year. After a year, I had the opportunity to go to straight nights (again, day shift is not available unless you’ve worked there for at least 5 years) and so I chose to do that.
Believe it or not, it has been so much better than rotating and I feel much more normal than when I was switching back and forth from day to night.
Working nights is still hard. The hardest part when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that the shift CAN be quieter (NOT always, especially when you have a very sick or an extremely delirious patient!). The increased downtime creates signals in your brain that just say eat, eat all the snacks, eat some more, and just taste some things. This is how the pounds can easily add on – and it gets worse if you aren’t getting enough sleep!
Being healthy and on nights is 100% possible and 100% in your control!
Here are the things that I do to keep healthy while working nights as a nurse:
Meal plan! Write a weekly plan of your meals and snacks and grocery shop to last during your stretch of work shifts.
Meal Prep! Cook food ahead of time so in between shifts you just pack it into a container and go!
Pack extra snacks that are healthy in case of emergency hunger moments or when there are a ton of unhealthy options in the break room! That way you can always grab your healthy snack to eat while everyone else is eating as well. RXBARS, fruit, almond butter, and nuts are my favorite snacks
SAY NO! You do not have to give into temptation if you don’t want to. Eat your yummy food you brought. It’s not that big of a deal.
Drink plenty of water! This is super important and even I need to remind myself regularly to do this!
Have black out curtains to allow for substantial rest during the day.
Keep your phone on silent during the day – No interruptions! You don’t call your friends and family at 1am, you do not need to be bothered at 1pm.
To my fellow nurses out there stuck on night shift and feeling unhealthy, turn the stigma around. You have full control over how you feel and the health of your body. Don’t make your schedule be the reason! Instead, make a plan using some of the tips I shared above and even add some of your own.
If there is something you do that I didn’t mention, please share it with me in the comments. I’d love to hear it!
ABOUT FELICIA: I’m Felicia but most people call me Fee! I am a registered nurse born and raised in Michigan and a longtime health advocate. In 2012, I did my first Whole30. It wasn’t until being diagnosed with PCOS in 2016 that I began to understand the benefits of Whole30 to my health and how much I really needed to incorporate this way of eating into my everyday life. Living a life of Food Freedom has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my physical and mental health. Follow me on Instagram @balancedfee, check out my blog at www.balancedfee.com and read more about my Whole 30 story here.