How to Survive Working Night Shift

So! You’ve got your first job, or a new job, and you’re working nights. Three nights a week, 7pm to 7am and your mind is like OMG! Probably not how you pictured your dream job. Unfortunately, most new nurses get stuck working night shift when they’re first hired (the staff  nurses who are most senior get first dibs on day shift openings), but don’t worry, you will indeed make it through!

Throughout my career I have worked both day shift and night shift (also sometimes called “third shift”) and full transparency, working nights is not my first choice, but…

You make more money working nights.

Working nights increases your hourly rate by $4.50-$5.00 per hour (at most facilities) and if you add the weekend differential to that, you’re easily making an extra $8-$10 dollars an hour and..


Other pros to night shift are:

  • there’s less commotion and there are fewer people around (including fewer higher-ups and fewer doctors). It’s just quieter overall which is so, so nice
  • I’ve also noticed that night shift crews tend to have much more of a team approach to things and
  • in my personal experience, I’ve had to float less when working nights.

So You’re Wondering, How Do You Survive?

1. Buy blackout curtains and sleep with an eye mask

You’re going to be working 7p to 7:30a and then attempting to sleep from the time you get home (maybe around 8:30am) to 4 or 5pm. Nothing ruins sleeping during day time hours like light coming in through your windows. Sleeping six to eight hours during the day is just not natural for most of us, so without making it dark in your bedroom and tricking your body into believing it’s night time, sleep may be nearly impossible.


Nights when I drank little to no water at all, even after sleeping the next day, I would wake up with a headache and I believe it was due to dehydration. Whenever I drank at least 32 ounces of water a night, I was able to avoid the dreaded headache.

3. Pack your own lunch and snack to stay awake

Your shift might start at 7pm, but you have to be up, getting dressed, eating dinner, and commuting by what time? Say 5pm? Being up from 5pm until 8:30am the next day is a looooong time and those hours on the unit from 3am to 6am can draaaaag by painfully slow. The only way I made it through many nights was by packing my own snacks. Night shift staff loooves to order food and it’s very easy to get caught up in the pizza and donuts and coffee (speaking for a friend).  Caution: choose healthy snacks!  Please don’t eat an entire bag of potato chips and gummy worms and then be on my line when you gain 25 pounds. They say working nights is known for making nurses gain weight, so be careful!

4. Also, listen to trap music to stay awake

IN YOUR CAR ONLY, lol! The drive home the next morning can be long. Please be safe. Listen to whatever kind of music gets your blood pumping, roll your windows down, or call someone who can stay on the phone with you until you get home.

5. Accept that your family and friends who aren’t nurses are never going to understand your schedule (nor how tired you are)

They just don’t get it, lmbo! This pertains to life as a nurse in general. Your family and friends keep asking “Why haven’t you answered your phone in three days?” “Why are you sleeping at two o’clock in the afternoon.” “Come on, you can’t be THAT tired.” No one will ever understand what it feels like to work a 12 hour night shift until they’ve done it….and until they’ve done it for months on end! It’s a different type of tired, I can promise you that.

For me, part time nights or rotating at my own will (with at least some degree of regularity) is doable, but full time, permanent nights? BABY! I just cannot any more. Thank you, next. BUT, there are nurses who have worked nights for thirty years and love it. I know several nurses who tell me they have no desire to ever work any shift other than night shift. So, it’s all personal preference. As a new grad, I definitely would not turn down an opportunity just because it was a night shift position.  Almost all of us have to pay our night shift dues at some point and hey, you never know, you might like it! It’s all about you and what works best for your own life.




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4 Comments Add yours

  1. lilleesha33 says:

    Great post!! I recently started working nights as a new RN for the past four months. You are right and that in the last couple weeks I have started to feel completely awful during the day. I am also a mama of three and an online student working on my BSN.
    Any tips on what snacks to bring?
    I usually don’t have an appetite after midnight but by 5 AM I am starving! LOL

  2. D_Rich says:

    Reblogged this on The Cruzan RN and commented:
    Great tips for nighshift!

    1. Tae says:

      Thank you!

  3. D_Rich says:

    These are great pointers! I am one year into my nursing career & I am considering switching to night shift after rotating the past year. The only thing holding me back is how badly my sleep is impacted. I may just have to make the switch and see how I do. I’ll definitely be applying a few a these pointers.

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