5 Tips For Nurses To Stay Productive During The Graveyard Shift

nightshift nurse

Nightshift nurses often describe their life as a slow, painful transition into becoming zombies. Instead of the human flesh and blood, they survive on coffee and chips! And with the increasing demand for 24/7 healthcare services, more nurses are forced to work at night. The work challenges these nurses deal with are different from those of daytime nurses. For the most part, these challenges revolve around the struggle of being productive, staying awake, and feeling healthy. These challenges are interlinked with providing patients with quality care even during the late hours of the night. The nursing profession offers several career advancement opportunities, such as becoming a clinical specialist, clinical technologist, or researcher. To attain such advancement in your career, you must enroll in general practice training programs.

So, if you’re a nurse who’s struggling to stay productive during the graveyard shift, we’ve listed a few tips that might help.

Cluster your night shifts together

Working a couple of night shifts then a few day shifts can completely mess up your body’s sleep schedule. Your body won’t have the time to adjust, which means you will continue to spend restless days and nights trying to get sufficient rest. As a result, you may feel exhausted and irritable all the time. You may also have difficulty focusing, which can be rather dangerous in the healthcare profession.

A good solution is to cluster your night shifts together so that your body can adapt to a sleeping cycle. This will help you combat fatigue and drowsiness during your shift because you will be well-rested.

Stay busy 

Unless you work in the ER or NICU, there are high chances that your patients will be sleeping during your shift. The quiet can be peaceful, but such a relaxed environment at night can cause drowsiness to take over. So, develop an effective plan to stay busy during your shift and avoid feeling drowsy. For example, you can enroll in an RN to BSN degree online and study courses in your free time. Not only will it help you stay busy and pass your time productively, but you can also progress in your career with higher qualifications. Or, if you’re not the studious type, you can choose to utilize your spare time to catch up on your favorite TV shows.

Eat healthy snacks 

It is tempting to binge on junk food and refill cup after cup of coffee during the graveyard shift. It may also be tempting to have a filling meal before your shift starts to avoid eating junk. But digesting a hearty meal would take more energy than you can spare during your night shift. As a result, your heavy mean can make you feel sluggish, sleepy, and lazy throughout the night.

Protein shakes

For this reason, try cutting down your meal portion size before your shift begins. But it doesn’t mean you have to stay hungry. Instead, bring some healthy snacks to munch on during your free time, such as dried fruits, nuts, a light sandwich, or even an oatmeal cookie. These snacks will help you stay energized and help you stay away from putting unhealthy trash in your mouth. Moreover, you won’t get lazy and will have the alertness to be productive.

Develop a bedtime routine 

While it will be easy to crash in bed after a night shift for the first few days, eventually, you will find it harder to get a good sleep. But to improve this scenario, you must create a comfortable environment for you to relax and develop a bedtime routine. For example, you should buy some eye masks to give your mind the illusion of nighttime and earplugs to cancel noise during the day. If you don’t like earplugs, you can also buy a white noise machine to help you fall asleep by draining out background noises. Before you go to bed, take a warm bath and get into clean clothes. And even if you are still unable to sleep, then try taking some melatonin.

You need a good bedtime routine because your sleep quality will determine your productivity levels. If you’re well-rested, you will be able to focus at work. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling sleepy and sluggish while watching over patients in the night.

Monitor your health

As a graveyard shift nurse, you may be more susceptible to health issues such as high blood pressure, insomnia, weight gain, etc. The nighttime routine is the primary cause of most of these issues. For starters, you may have a hard time falling asleep after your long shift, which may lead to insomnia. Moreover, unhealthy snacking habits and lack of physical activity may cause weight gain. Hence, you must be mindful of your health and learn to listen to your body. If you notice your health deteriorating, seek help for it immediately.

Apart from your physical health, keep an eye on your mental health too. And if you find yourself struggling, then find a reliable mental health professional to help you.


The graveyard shift is hard work, but it also pays well. For example, you may get a higher salary and benefits because fewer nurses are willing to stay up all night and work. Apart from that, you get a close-knit team of workers who learn to support each other through the night. But these benefits require you to turn your routine upside down. To counter the challenges of working as a night shift nurse, follow the tips mentioned above. These tips can help you remain active and enhance your productivity.