What Keeps You Up at Night?

Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN, is an infusion practice manager and occasional blogger on this site

By Ballistik Coffee Boy/via Flickr

A recent national survey revealed that nurses as a profession are the most dependent on coffee (the survey was commissioned, in part, by Dunkin’ Donuts, though at least conducted by Harris Interactive). The survey asked 3,600 people about their productivity as it related to coffee consumption. The results are interesting if not surprising. Physicians fall in just behind nurses, and hotel workers hold third place.

While working the night shift early in my career, I got my caffeine jolt from diet soda. Not too many years later I developed a taste for coffee by adding hot chocolate to it, in effect creating “mochas” before they were sold for $3.50 each. I still prefer fancier concoctions such as flavored lattes, but in a pinch can be found clutching a packet of powdered creamer over a black cup of hotel room coffee. Some may venture to compare my progressive caffeine consumption to an addiction, and I can’t totally discount that theory. But if you consider that the top three positions on the survey may require work during the night, is it surprising that those who do these jobs also report some dependence on a stimulant? Since many of us seem to depend on caffeine to perform our jobs, perhaps the real question is whether we’re getting any benefit from all those cups of joe.

As this recent article summarizes—and as you’ve no doubt learned from various news sources—those of us with the habit may be less likely than those who don’t drink coffee (and I emphasize may, since little of this is actually proven) “to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.” As a group, we also seem to “have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes.”

Or, as Frank Hu, a nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, puts it, “There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health.” Research by Hu and others reveals a possible correlation between coffee intake and reduced occurrence of various diseases or conditions.  Similar benefits have also been noted among those drinking tea and decaf coffee, so those of you who just like the flavor may be reaping the rewards as well. Since this research didn’t ask folks to skip their coffee, but instead only asked about habits, these studies can’t show cause and effect. Despite these caveats, I readily admit that I enjoyed the article.

Quite a while ago I wrote on this blog about some ways nurses relax and take our minds off our jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, how do you keep yourself focused at work? Do you do something different depending on what time of day it might be? Have your methods changed over time? I’ve been a nurse for over 25 years and my habits have been influenced by changes related to my schedule, job requirements, activity levels, travel, and many other factors. Let’s hear from you. I’m off to pour my last cup of coffee for the day.

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2016-11-21T13:15:15+00:00 October 18th, 2010|nursing perspective|6 Comments

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  1. wilomis October 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I used to never drink coffee, that is until I started volunteering at a South Florida hospital back in 2007. The coffee was free and I needed something at 7AM on a Sunday to shake the South Beach party from the night before off my back. Since then I enjoy my cup of Joe daily. I like it black with a little splenda. Now that I am in Philly, I find comfort in holding the warm cup on those frigid winter mornings. Oddly in nursing school (when I was at least 4 cups a day) I found my self falling asleep within 15 minutes of the coffee, only to find the caffeine jolt to kick in 30 minutes later. Weird.

  2. Saara October 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Black drip has more caffeine than the equivalent in espresso. Also that avoids the extra calories from milk and sugar or syrup which can add up if indulging in several flavored lattes per day. Having said that, when baking nights, I found that a quadruple shot with 2 ounces of chocolate syrup and a small splash of milk administered at midnight kept me going until morning. 😉

  3. Linda October 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    This brought back memories of night shift in the
    ER and realizing one night I drank 11 cups of coffee. I am not a natural night person and needed help but even then I knew I better get a grip. I still drink coffee…in fact I have a commercial grade espresso / cappuccino maker but I ration myself and make sure I get plenty of sleep and lots of FUN exercise to keep energetic and focused…and above all no more night shifts. Thanks for the memories, Peggy.

  4. Not Nurse Ratched October 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I drink coffee every few hours whether I’m working or not. I’m hooked. But when I’m working (nights), I have a finely honed caffeination schedule that allows me to get through the night alert yet fall asleep when I get home: woe to people or situations that cause deviation from The Coffee Plan! (My master plan: one cup on arrival, one cup at 11 PM, and one cup at 3 AM…no more, no less.) Also, I don’t eat much overnight. If I do, I feel nauseated, sleepy, or both. I do my eating during the daylight hours.

  5. Rob Fraser October 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I definitely have increased my caffeine intake some entering nursing school. Lately, I’m even start to realize there are elements of physical addiction too. I just love the warmth of the paper cup in my hand. Giving up paper cups is my goal for the semester and I’m already 14 paper cups short of a perfect record.

    I find I’m naturally a night person. But I love the taste of coffee and I feel that I need it to focus. One day I’ll tie it up, but who knows when that will be.

    Great post,

  6. Karee October 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I admit to being a caffeine junkie, but in the after-lunch slump, I believe exercise is the best wake-up technique. Just a quick walk around the unit or up and down a flight of stairs (or more, if you have time) will get your blood moving if you don’t have time to take a walk outside.

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