by Ctd 2005, via Flickr Creative Commons

Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, interim editor-in-chief

I recently sent my sister Jean, who works as a night nurse, an article called “Six Ways to Make Working the Night Shift Less Hazardous to Your Health.” The article noted recent research suggesting that shift work could increase your risk of everything from depression to obesity to cardiovascular disease. It also made a few simple suggestions: be consistent, nap before you work, don’t use caffeine (!!!), don’t take melatonin, change your lights, and eat a healthful diet. Here’s what my sister had to say about the article:

Yes, I do agree with the article. I am a night nurse and I always feel like I can’t get enough sleep. The days  I am off I tend to sleep too much. I have also suffered from depression and am on Cymbalta. The best way I found to cope is to try to maintain a “night” routine even when I am off. I go to bed at 2 am or 3 am and sleep until 11 am.  I also do not eat a lot on nights. At  work, I try to eat by 9 pm, and then if I am hungry I will have cereal or fruit. The nights I am off, we eat dinner at 7 pm. My house is quiet during the day as my children are older. If it is the weekend I sometimes wear ear plugs. I keep my bedroom dark. I sometimes take an Ambien to sleep if I work back to back. I do believe it takes a serious toll on my health and sometimes I think about going to days, but I feel the stress would be about 10 times worse.  I’d rather work in a more quiet and peaceful environment. I am 54, so hopefully I can retire in six years.

Thanks, Jean, for letting me quote you in this post. It makes me wonder: Do other night nurses feel this way? What does motivate someone to work full-time when the rest of the world is sleeping? Does it take a unique personality? Do you have a secret that might help others?

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