The first time: surviving the night shift

Sudden changes to your sleep patterns can be tough on your body and mind. Follow these tips to help ease the transition

Your first time working the night shift can be a difficult adjustment to overcome. Your body is naturally programmed to be awake during the day and asleep at night, so it can take time getting used to the new routine.

A night shift may come with long periods of inactivity, and it can be difficult to remain alert and focused while your body is adjusting to the new schedule.

If you find yourself losing steam midway through the shift, unable to focus on your work, or counting down the minutes until you can go home and crawl into bed, you may need to adjust your approach to the shift, or to your daytime sleep routine. It will take a bit of getting used to, but once you get in the habit, the night shift is not nearly as daunting as it may first seem.

Tips for staying awake and alert during your shift

  1. Nap. Take a 30 minute nap before your shift begins and, if possible, try to get in a few 10-20 minute naps throughout the night. Short periods of rest will help keep your energy high, but be sure not to sleep too long or you’ll risk making yourself groggy.
  2. Eat small portions throughout the shift. Instead of eating a giant meal right before your 12 hours on the ward, pack healthy snacks to eat throughout the night. Eating small snacks throughout your working “night” will help keep your energy up. A change in your sleep pattern can make your digestive system more sensitive, and large meals can be more difficult to digest than lighter snacks.
  3. Keep moving. When you have downtime during your shift, don’t just sit there. Walk around, stretch, exercise. Keeping your body moving will keep your blood flowing and mind awake.
  4. Chat with your co-workers. Keeping your mind active with conversation will prevent you from dozing off. You also may be able to discuss difficulties that you’re having with the night shift transition and share tips for coping with the changes.
  5. Be careful with your caffeine intake. Having a caffeinated drink before you begin your shift or earlier on into the night can help keep you alert and focused. But try to avoid drinking coffee, tea or fizzy drinks that contain caffeine later on in your shift, as they can make it difficult for you to fall asleep when you get home – thereby interrupting your sleep cycle.

Tips for getting a good sleep in during the day

  1. Designate a quiet sleep area. Convincing your body to sleep during the day can be a challenge, especially if you are surrounded by reminders that it’s not night time. Creating a comfortable sleep space, one that’s dark, quiet and cool, can help you relax into a good day’s rest.
  2. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Your body likes routine, so developing a schedule and sticking to it will help you adjust quicker. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Working your first night shift requires a bit of an adjustment, but once you develop a routine that works for you, it can be a shift full of learning experience and opportunities.

Tips for Staying Awake on the Job

Here are five easy ways to keep yourself alert and productive during your shift:

  1. Take a walk before your shift. If you’re an evening shift worker, take a walk before your shift, ideally when the sun is still up. Sunlight has an alerting effect on the body and may help you feel more awake during your shift.
  2. Nap strategically. It’s often hard for shift workers to sleep seven to nine hours continuously, so naps are very important. Take a nap before your shift, and take short naps on the job if possible—even a 15-20 minute nap can improve alertness. See more tips for smart napping.
  3. Try caffeine. Drink caffeine during your shift. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep when you’re off duty, limit your caffeine to the first part of your shift and taper it off during the last half. Caffeine stays in your system for many hours.
  4. Keep moving. When you’re sedentary for too long (for example, at your desk), you’re more likely to become drowsy. Keeping your body active will help you think clearly and feel alert. If you’re talking on the phone at work, stand up or walk around while you do so. During your breaks, move away from your workstation, take a short walk or walk up and down stairs, and stay in motion.
  5. Stay safe. Take public transportation home if you can. Drowsy driving is dangerous for everyone.

Working Shifts: 9 Tips for Better Sleep

If your job requires that you work the night shift or hours other than the traditional 9 to 5, you need to pay close attention to your sleep. These tips can help you get good sleep:

  1. Try not to work a number of night shifts in a row. You may become increasingly more sleep-deprived over several nights on the job. You’re more likely to recover if you can limit night shifts and schedule days off in between.
  2. Avoid frequently rotating shifts. If you can’t, it’s easier to adjust to a schedule that rotates from day shift to evening to night rather than the reverse order.
  3. Try to avoid long commutes that take time away from sleeping.
  4. Keep your workplace brightly lighted to promote alertness. If you’re working the night shift, expose yourself to bright light, such as that from special light boxes, lamps, and visors designed for people with circadian-related sleep problems, when you wake up. Circadian rhythms are the body’s internal clock that tells us when to be awake and when to sleep. These rhythms are controlled by a part of the brain that is influenced by light. Fleming says that being exposed to bright light when you start your “day” can help train your body’s internal clock to adjust.
  5. Limit caffeine. Drinking a cup of coffee at the beginning of your shift will help promote alertness. But don’t consume caffeine later in the shift or you may have trouble falling asleep when you get home.
  6. Avoid bright light on the way home from work, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep once you hit the pillow. Wear dark, wraparound sunglasses and a hat to shield yourself from sunlight. Don’t stop to run errands, tempting as that may be.
  7. Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule as much as you can.
  8. Ask your family to limit phone calls and visitors during your sleep hours.
  9. Use blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block sunlight when you sleep during the day. “Sunlight is a potent stimulator of the circadian rhythm,” Fleming says. “Even if your eyes are closed, the sunlight coming into the room tells your brain that it’s daytime. Yet your body is exhausted and you’re trying to sleep. That discrepancy … is not a healthy thing for the body to be exposed to.”

NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION — Shift workers often find it challenging to balance sleep and activities with their varying shifts. Shift workers often find there is not enough time between each shift to sleep and spend time with their friends or families before they have to get ready for their next shift. We asked a variety of shift workers how they balance their busy schedules in order to make sleep a priority.

Sarah L.: Nurse at a university Hospital

What is your shift schedule?

7 pm – 7 am, three nights a week.

What is your biggest challenge about working shifts?

The biggest challenge for me is managing social activities. People who work normal hours don’t always understand that I still need to sleep between/after work shifts and that I don’t have the entire day free to do whatever I like. Also, it can be difficult to motivate myself to be social after a few busy, stressful nights of work. On my first day/night off, I may spend a few hours lazing around—I call that my night shift hangover. Also, since I work different days each week (for example, one week it may be Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; another week it may be Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), I have to remember to check my work schedule before making plans because my free nights vary.

What helps me…

I find it most helpful to group my shifts together so that I am not flipping back and forth between day and night schedules constantly throughout the week. If I have the time and energy, I will exercise before going into work to experience daylight and work off some stress.

The day after my last night shift, I will try to “short sleep” and wake up after only a few hours to make the most out of my day and get back on a normal schedule. I also try to go to bed early that night to catch up on sleep. Napping also helps out.

Traci K.: Post production TV supervisor

One week of a day schedule (9am – 5pm), then a week of a night schedule (5pm – 1:30 or 2:30am). Every other week, I rotate back.

My schedule is opposite from the rest of the world. It’s great for going shopping, to the bank, doctor appointments, and so forth, but almost all school activities/meetings (plays, performances, sporting events) are held at night to accommodate someone working during the day.

I’m also tired most of the time. I try to take a nap whenever I can, but it’s hard with little kids at home.

I could not do this without support from a spouse, family (especially my mother), and friends. It takes immense juggling all of the time. When I work days, my husband works nights. When I work nights, he works days. I leave extensive notes explaining every event and detail that is happening if I will not be attending (what medicine each kid needs and at what time, what equipment is needed for each event and where that might be). I choose sleep over all else when I have the chance to do it because if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m tired, foggy and grumpy. Staying on top of things, having a clean house and feeling organized also makes me feel good.

Dan T.: Lighting technician for TV commercials

Start times range from 4am to 4pm and are often scheduled without much notice. Days are almost always 12 hours minimum.

When I was younger and single, the hours didn’t matter. I’d come home whenever, shower, sleep, get up, repeat. When I wasn’t working, I would travel, socialize and relax. Now that I’m married with more responsibilities, the extreme change in life at home between working and non-working days is brutal, and sleep loss is the worst. Commercial productions are only obligated to allow you 10 hours between when you are “wrapped” and the next day’s call time. So if it takes 90 minutes to get home, I have total of 8.5 hours to shower, sleep, get up and make the drive back in to work.

Since my type of job is unpredictable, my “down days” can often be spent worrying about when the next job will come, recuperating from the job I just finished, or avoiding making committed social plans with friends and family for fear I’ll have to break them at a moment’s notice.

The best thing for me, truly, is sleep. It all comes down to rest and recuperation. Catching up with friends or family after a day at work has a direct negative effect on how much sleep I’ll get that night. So I come home, try to “bullet point” the day with my wife, and go to sleep. Blackout curtains are a must.

I really try to get eight hours of sleep. It takes discipline to do this. There are bills to pay, dogs that need walking, emails to check and TV shows I love. If I get home at 9pm, I can sit at my computer and it is suddenly 11:30pm. So instead I come home, clean up, talk to my (very understanding) wife, and go to bed.

Marvin R.: Barista

I usually work mornings, starting at 4am and ending as late as 1:30pm. Sometimes I work afternoons and nights if help is needed.

The biggest challenges about working shifts are planning social activities and sleep loss. If I work in the morning, I wake up at 3:30am, so if I go out the night before, I will have to deal with the consequences of getting little to no sleep. I’ve decided that if it is not worth losing sleep over it I probably won’t go out, or I’ll just go out to make an “appearance,” and get home quickly to sleep as much as I can.

What helps me to keep going is having a hobby to take my mind off work and school and that doesn’t leave me feeling drained or groggy. I make the best of my schedule because I get off early and I still have a lot of time to do other things that I enjoy. I also try to fit in a nap to recharge.

Matt B.: Police officer

I work 9pm until 6am with rotating days off every week.

The biggest challenge about this shift is finding a regular sleep schedule. Some days I go to bed right when I get off work and other days I have to stay up until the afternoon. It’s never the same. Some days I have work obligations that start at 9am and some days I have to take my five year old son to school in the morning. I am well aware that I’m functioning on minimal sleep most of the time and I use one of my two days off catching up on sleep.

What helps me is keeping in mind the benefit of this schedule: the fact that I don’t miss any social events or any of my kid’s events. Most of the people I work with choose this shift strictly because it allows you to spend more time with your friends and family and that helps in dealing with the overall stress of the job.

Eric D.: Fire lieutenant

My shift is 24 hours on, and then 48 hours off.

The biggest challenge for me is trying to function normally the next day. There are shift days when I get maybe three hours of sleep total, followed by strenuous and highly stressful calls on shift. This leads to odd sleep times the following days when I’m off.

What I try to do is nap during the day at work. I also sleep in increments—for example when I get home, I’ll sleep until noon and then try to fall asleep again around 11pm. I’ve also started drinking a nighttime (non-caffeinated) tea that aids in my sleep—it seems to help sometimes.

Optimize your schedule for night shifts

Even if you can’t change your shifts, what you do before, during and after the shift can make a huge difference to your sleepiness and your general mood. These tips can be helpful for both night shifts and late shifts. Look down the list for things that are in your control. Test out what works for you, and try to do it more often.
Before your night shift:
• Most people can cope with up to a 2-3 hour shift in their sleep-wake cycle. If you have a few days before you start night shifts, gradually taper your sleep and wake times towards the new schedule, for example, by rising 2 hours later each day and going to bed 2 hours later.
• Take a nap before your shift to reduce sleepiness when you’re at work.
• If you’re a natural early bird, try a long nap for up to 3 hours to reduce your sleep debt. If you’re a night owl, you’ll find it more difficult to sleep in the afternoon but try at least a 15-20 minute nap before you get ready for work.
• Be aware that if you nap for more than 30-40 minutes your body will enter deep sleep. The advantage of deep sleep is that it will help to reduce a sleep debt, but it can take around an hour to be fully alert again, so allow time to wake up afterwards.
Staying alert while you’re at work
• Seek out bright light before and during the early part of a night shift. Even if work areas need to have dim light, break areas should still be well lit. If your workplace feels too dark, speak to your employer about increasing the brightness of the lighting.
• When you have the same shift for at least a few days, eat a meal or snack at the same time each day to promote regular body cycles. If you working nights for several days, eat ‘lunch’ mid way through your shift.
• A mid shift power nap of up to 30-40 minutes is more effective than coffee for improving alertness.
• Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee can be helpful stimulants to promote attention in the first half of a shift, but taken within a few hours of bedtime could result in a longer time to fall asleep, reduced deep sleep and fewer sleep hours.
Getting home after your night shift
• Do you need to drive? You are at higher risk of having a car accident if you drive after a night shift. If public transport, carpooling or cabs aren’t practical, vary your route home so that you’re less likely to be driving on ‘autopilot’. If you’re very tired, take a short nap before setting off.
• Daylight is a signal to the body to stay awake. Wear dark glasses on the way home to encourage the production of melatonin and prepare the body for sleep.
Protecting your sleep after a night shift
• Follow the same routine to prepare for bed on day or night shifts. This will encourage pattern recognition and get the body ready for sleep – a light snack, a warm bath, brushing your teeth, soothing music, relaxation exercises or meditation could be part of a wind down routine.
• Avoid having a clock or alarm clock where you can see it during your rest time. Looking at the time may make you feel anxious.
• Use blackout curtains or drapes to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Alternatively, a good eye mask may do the trick.
• If you live in a noisy environment, look at soundproofing your bedroom with double-glazing, carpets, heavy curtains and even wall insulation. Ear plugs could also help to preserve your peace and quiet.
• Keep a visible record of your sleep and work schedule somewhere so your partner, family or housemates can see it, so that they don’t inadvertently wake you up.
Recovering between shifts
• Try and find time for exercise. If you can stay physically fit, your body will be better able to cope with changes to the body clock, and you’ll feel less fatigued overall.
• If you’re trying to return to a natural day shift pattern, remember that bright light boosts alertness. Light alarm clocks and light boxes that mimic the sun’s spectrum and intensity can help to reset wake cycles (aim for ~2500 lux vs. normal lighting of ~150 lux).

Hints and tips for shift-workers

People vary in how they cope with shift work depending on their health, fitness, age, lifestyle, and domestic responsibilities– some adapt well, others do not. Whilst we cannot change our inbuilt characteristics, it is possible to alter our behaviour or make lifestyle changes that may make shift work more tolerable. The hints and tips below draw on commonly available advice and best practice from a range of sources and may improve sleep quality, increase alertness and reduce health risks for shift workers.

Driving to and from work

Driving to and from work can be risky, particularly after a long shift, a night shift or before an early start. The following strategies may make driving safer:

  • consider using public transport or taxis rather than driving;
  • exercise briefly before your journey;
  • share driving if possible;
  • drive carefully and defensively;
  • try not to hurry;
  • stop if you feel sleepy and take a short nap if it is safe to do so;
  • make occasional use of caffeine or ‘energy’ drinks.

Identify a suitable sleep schedule

Most adults need 7-8 hours sleep a day although this may decrease with age. If you cannot do this, try to rest, as this is still beneficial. Recording sleep patterns and problems using a diary may help to explain fatigue and tiredness. It can also be used to help find the most suitable strategies and conditions for a better quality of sleep.

  • If you work regular shifts, try going to bed at different times eg soon after you arrive back from work or stay up and sleep before the next shift;
  • have a short sleep before your first night shift;
  • if coming off night shifts, have a short sleep and go to bed earlier that night;
  • once you have identified a suitable sleep schedule try to keep to it.

Make the environment favourable for sleeping

Sleep loss and fatigue are some of the most significant problems for shift workers. It is important to try and maintain your normal level of sleep and rest. Daytime sleep is usually lighter, shorter and of poorer quality than night time sleep. It is more frequently disturbed because of warmer temperatures and daytime noise. To help make the environment favourable for sleeping:

  • sleep in your bedroom and avoid using it for other activities such as watching television, eating and working;
  • use heavy curtains, blackout blinds or eye shades to darken the bedroom;
  • disconnect the phone or use an answer machine and turn the ringer down;
  • ask your family not to disturb you and to keep the noise down when you are sleeping;
  • discuss your work pattern with close neighbours and ask them to try and avoid noisy activities during your sleep time;
  • if it is too noisy to sleep consider using earplugs, white noise or background music to mask external noises;
  • adjust the bedroom temperature to a comfortable level, cool conditions improve sleep.

Techniques to promote sleep

To promote sleeping, try to follow a similar routine to the one you follow before a normal nights sleep. The following tips may help you relax after a shift and promote sleep:

  • go for a short walk, relax with a book, listen to music and/or take a hot bath before going to bed;
  • avoid vigorous exercise before sleep as it is stimulating and raises the body temperature;
  • avoid caffeine, ‘energy’ drinks and other stimulants a few hours before bedtime as they can stop you going to sleep;
  • don’t go to bed feeling hungry: have a light meal or snack before sleeping but avoid fatty, spicy and/or heavy meals, as these are more difficult to digest and can disturb sleep;
  • avoid alcohol as it lowers the quality of sleep.


It is very important to consider the timing and quality of your meals. Digestive problems are common in shift workers due to disruption of the body clock and poor diet. Plan your meals to help you stay alert at work and to relax/sleep when you need to rest.

  • regular light meals/snacks are less likely to affect alertness or cause drowsiness than a single heavy meal;
  • choose foods that are easy to digest such as pasta, rice, bread, salad, fruit, vegetables and milk products;
  • avoid fatty, spicy and/or heavy meals as these are more difficult to digest. They can make you feel drowsy when you need to be alert. They may also disturb sleep when you need to rest;
  • avoid sugary foods, such as chocolate – they provide a short-term energy boost followed by a dip in energy levels;
  • fruit and vegetables are good snacks as their sugar is converted into energy relatively slowly and they also provide vitamins, minerals and fibre;
  • drink plenty of fluid as dehydration can reduce both mental and physical performance but avoid drinking too much fluid before sleeping as this may overload the bladder.

Stimulants and sedatives

Shift workers often turn to stimulants such as coffee or cigarettes to keep them awake and sedatives such as alcohol or sleeping pills to help them sleep. Avoid such aids as they only have short-term effects on alertness as tolerance to their effects develops. Persistent use may also increase the risk of dependence.

  • caffeine is a mild stimulant present in coffee, tea and cola as well as in tablet form and in special ‘energy’ drinks. It can improve reaction time and feelings of alertness for short periods. Only use caffeine occasionally and don’t rely on it to keep you awake. If you do decide to take caffeine or other stimulants, you should consider what might happen when its effects wear off eg when you are operating machinery or driving.
  • avoid the use of alcohol to help you fall asleep. Although alcohol can promote the onset of sleep it is also associated with earlier awakenings, disrupted sleep and poorer sleep quality. Regularly drinking too much increases the risk of long-term damage to your physical and mental health, your work, social and personal relationships.
  • regular use of sleeping pills and other sedatives to aid sleep are not recommended because they can lead to dependency and addiction.
  • new drugs have recently been developed that can alter our state of alertness. Although their use may be widespread abroad, the ways in which they work and their long-term effects are not yet fully understood and consequently their use is not advised unless under medical supervision.

Physical fitness and a healthier lifestyle

An unhealthy lifestyle combined with shift work may increase the likelihood of sleep disorders and sleep loss or exacerbate existing sleep problems. A good diet, regular meals and exercise can improve sleep quality, health and well-being.

  • you can improve your fitness by spending 30 minutes a day on a physical activity including housework and walking. Consider joining a gym or taking part in a regular exercise class;
  • eat healthy meals on a regular basis;
  • cut down or give up smoking;
  • reduce your alcohol intake;
  • seek advice from your doctor if you require regular medication such as insulin for diabetes or suffer from a chronic condition such as epilepsy.
  • Family and friends

Working shifts that differ from the routines of friends and family can leave you feeling isolated and it is important to make the effort not to lose contact with them:

  • talk to friends and family about shiftwork. If they understand the problems you are facing it will be easier for them to be supportive and considerate;
  • make your family and friends aware of your shift schedule so they can include you when planning social activities;
  • make the most of your time off and plan mealtimes, weekends and evenings together;
  • plan your domestic duties around your shift schedule and try to ensure that you do not complete them at the cost of rest/sleep. You may need to change the times/days when some jobs are done;
  • invite others who work similar shifts to join you in social activities when others are at work and there are fewer crowds.

Ways to improve your alertness at work

On some shifts, such as nights and very early mornings you may find it difficult to remain alert and this can affect your performance. It may also increase the risk of errors, injury and accidents. You may find it helpful to:

  • take moderate exercise before starting work which may increase your alertness during the shift.
  • keep the light bright;
  • take regular short breaks during the shift if possible;
  • get up and walk around during breaks;
  • plan to do more stimulating work at the times you feel most drowsy;
  • keep in contact co-workers as this may help both you and them stay alert.


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What’s your go-to energy-boosting drink when working the night shift? Coffee, Red Bull, soda or do you turn to something more natural like a green tea? It’s an interesting balance choosing a beverage that not only keeps you awake during your shift, but allows you to sleep like a log when you get home. Let’s suss out the available options while working the graveyard shift.

As you read this post, I’m sure there are some things on this list you have no idea about. But don’t be scared. Let’s explore these options, where to buy them and why they are worth giving a go at 4am. This post will first explore the drinks containing caffeine, then the options which don’t.

Caffeinated Night Shift Energy Boosting Drinks
**Note: These drinks should be avoided 6 hours before sleeping

1. A Cup of Joe (Coffee)

I thought I’d kick things off with the most common, popular choice among night shift workers. Coffee.

Coffee is often demonized where the night shift is concerned as it can delay our sleep later on. This is unfortunately true for the lovers of coffee and why most recommend switching to something else you will find in this article after midnight.

If you like numbers, switching to something non-caffeinated 6 hours before sleep is a good rule of thumb as caffeine can hang around in our bodies for up to 12 hours. See “10 Night Shift Survival Tips to Stay Healthy and Not Get Sick” for more info.

Despite coffee being a stimulant, it’s not all bad and actually has some pretty neat qualities.

Coffee drinkers can enjoy the following health benefits thanks to science figuring out the nitty-gritty:

  • Coffee can help the body function better due it’s high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols. These little guys reduce stress in the body that help the cells better perform.
  • Drinking coffee can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Type 2 Diabetes
  • Coffee can kick start your metabolism after waking from night shift before your next shift
  • Coffee is great for your liver (source)
  • Caffeine can even boost our motivation to exercise. A study in 2018 confirmed that drinking over 1 cup of coffee/tea motivated the participates to exercise for the recommended amount of exercise per day in comparison to those who had less than one cup. (source)

Healthy tips when drinking coffee on night shift

  • If you like a sweet coffee, use honey or stevia instead of traditional sugar to help eliminate the extra sugar you don’t need.
  • Don’t have more than the recommended amount of caffeine per day. “Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks” (source)
  • Coffee quickly passes from your bloodstream to your brain so organize and complete the jobs which need the most concentration just after drinking it in order to be most effective

The bottom line with coffee on night shift:
Enjoy a cup or two before the shift starts but stop drinking it 6 hours before you need to sleep. Remember too much coffee may lead to energy loss as the body withdraws from the caffeine.

Death Wish Ground Coffee
(Click to see the coffee perfect for shift workers via

2. Green Tea

Do you need something warm but healthy to give you an energy boost after putting down your coffee? Look no further than green tea.

It is true that green tea still contains a small amount of caffeine to help you make it through a shift, but the special ingredients and antioxidants inside green tea leaves helps reduce stress and inflammation.

This could mean we are given a more gradual energetic transition and not the “hit” we feel with coffee. People also say they feel less “jittery” but still energetic when comparing green tea to coffee and even energy drinks.

I also recently learned about L-theanine or more commonly known as “theanie”, which is found in green tea. This protein has so many health benefits that we would be here all day listing them, but as a summary, it can lower your risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. (source)

Green tea is cheap, easy to prepare and can be enjoyed both hot and cold. Take a browse through the local grocery and check out the abundance of flavors to delight your pallet.

I suggest making your own brew at home rather than buying the bottled iced tea varieties. Those brands are loaded with sugar defeating the whole purpose of “being healthy” if that’s your goal here.

Brewing Tip: Water temperature is key when brewing green tea. While there are some tricky ideas to make the water cooler you could simply just wait a few minutes.

The ideal temp range for green tea is 140°F – 185°F. Anything above this range will leave you with a very bitter, unpleasant taste. For most green tea varieties letting it “steep” or sit for 1-3 minutes is ideal but can vary depending on desired taste. (source)

The bottom line with drinking green tea on night shift…
If you want a hot beverage to give you an energy boost with added health benefits – green tea is a great option. Drink between meals and not with meals to maximize absorption, but limit drinking it about 2-3 hours before bed due to the caffeine content.

T2 Tea – Greatest Greens Assorted Tea Sampler
(This is my go-to green tea brand as I can NEVER get sick of the flavors – see it here via Amazon)

3. Yerba Maté

To be honest. I had never heard of Yerba maté but I think it could really be a great option for night shift workers looking for an energy hit. Plus, it’s also commonly called “mate” which binds well with my Australian heritage.

What is it?

  • Yerba maté is a plant native to South America. The twigs and leaves of this tree are dried, typically over fire and brewed in hot water to make herbal tea. You can drink it either hot or cold depending on your mood and resources during your shift.

Why is it good for us?

  • Yerba maté contains many healthy nutrients and antioxidants similar to green tea but some argue it has even more health benefits.
  • Drinkers of this South American delight say it gives them a smoother more sustained energy over the “buzz” commonly felt with coffee.
  • It can make us feel full, meaning we are less tempted to reach for the open packet of chips a co-worker left behind. This feeling of fullness could also be beneficial for those looking to lose weight on night shift as you are less tempted to overeat. See “How Can I Lose Weight Working 12-Hour Night Shifts?” for more inspiration about weight loss on night shift. (source)
  • It can improve our moods. Anything to get me out of my “night shift slump” is welcome in our house!

What do night shift workers need to be aware of?

  • Like green tea it also contains caffeine so should be limited around 3-4 hours before bed.
  • Don’t drink it too hot. While the studies are few and far between there are links to getting cancer in the esophagus for drinking it too hot. (source)

The bottom line with drinking Yerba mate on night shift…
Another great option for a warm beverage overnight that can aid with weight loss and energy. However, just be aware of the caffeine component before bed and keep the temperature down when brewing to avoid negative health implications.

Yerba Mate Tea
(Click to see via
Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate Cans
(Click to see via

4. Kombucha

Like coconut water (which we will discuss next), kombucha is becoming pretty trendy. You can now find it in all the big grocery stores for a reasonable price making it worth a try. And that’s exactly what we did.

Dan was introduced to kombucha before me while working permanent nights through a colleague. Being a cautious guy he wasn’t too sure but it wasn’t long before it made its way into the grocery cart on a weekly basis.

Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic tea which is normally best enjoyed chilled in my opinion. It claims to detoxify, heal and boost your body’s energy level.

Neither Dan nor I drink coffee but drink a lot of tea and we have found kombucha to be a great way to kick start the day instead of both these other options

Here are a few other benefits to drinking kombucha for night shift workers:

  • It is available in many flavors so you don’t get bored
  • It’s fizzy so it feels like your drinking soda
  • Great for your gut health and already struggling digestive system
  • Boosts your immunity due to the “good bacteria”
  • Kombucha is rich in B-vitamins and folic acid. These ingredients help the body produce and maintain new cells.

What to be aware of when drinking kombucha

  • It contains caffeine, about 2 to 25mg. But the amount is much less than the average coffee which contains about 95mg of caffeine.
  • Most kombucha contains a very small amount of alcohol. This is a natural byproduct of fermentation whenever there are yeasts and sugar present. Interestingly, by law non-alcoholic beverages must contain less than 0.5% ABV which is the case most of the time here.
  • Don’t drink too much as it contains lactic acid. The thought here, despite the risk being pretty slim, is that drinking too much can cause lactic acidosis leading to some harmful health effects.
  • Be aware of added sugars. Aim for one less than 5grams of sugar or less per serving.
  • Check the serving size. Some brands squeeze in a second serving size when you may only think it has one. We generally buy x1 bottle each to last for about 5 days.

The bottom line with drinking Kombucha on night shift…
Due to the tiny bit of alcohol present in the fermenting process, kombucha may not be appropriate for work. However, most brands are deemed “non-alcoholic” if under 0.5%, as most kombucha is. Keeping your kombucha in the fridge will stop further fermentation increasing the alcohol level.

The Kombucha Shop Kombucha Brewing Kit
(Why not save money and have some fun while making your own? See it via Amazon)“Synergy” Kombucha is a brand we are trying currently. Good flavour, refreshing but a touch too much sugar. Around 8-10g (we are aiming for 5mg and under). Click to view prices on Amazon.

Non-Caffeinated Night Shift Energy Boosting Drinks
These drinks can be enjoyed right up until bedtime

5. Coconut Water

Coconut water, commonly known in Thailand as “nature’s sports drink” is getting pretty trendy. Seeing people drinking out of mini, foiled lined bottles seems to be everywhere – even at local music festivals!

The difference between this health craze and other drinks you see around is that this one is delicious, refreshing and also happens to be good for you.

Coconut water is packed with high levels of potassium (more than 4 bananas in fact!), minerals and other health-boosting ingredients most people, especially night shift workers, don’t get enough of.

The water typically comes from young coconut about 6-7 months of age, although there are some varieties of coconut water available from a fully mature coconut which takes 10-12 months to develop. These young coconuts provide about 0.5–1 cups of coconut water each.

Here are a few reasons why they are so great for night shift workers:

  • Low in calories
  • Naturally free of fat and cholesterol
  • Incredibly hydrating
  • You can drink it by its self or blend it with banana (also linked to giving us energy) and blueberries for a tasty smoothie. (Obviously, the blending will need to be done before work as most tea rooms don’t have a blender you can use).
  • You may feel less full, bloated or nauseous post drinking coconut water overnight in comparison to other drinks. As our digestive system slows overnight, this is a welcome change. (source)

The bottom line with coconut water on night shift…
Like anything, don’t over-do it when it comes to drinking coconut water. Despite being healthy, one 11-ounce container has about 60 calories, and this can add up if you’re drinking several throughout the night.

6. Organifi Green Juice

***UPDATE*** 2020

We have discovered a new green juice called “Super Green TONIK” and we love it! We actually enjoy it so much we recommend it higher than Organifi.

Why? We have a few reasons which you can find inside our detailed but easy to read review with a handy discount code inside.

I know you might be a little suspect on something new but do not fear, you won’t be disappointed.

Read our review HERE.

2019 view on green juice…

Man, I love this stuff.

Finally, a green-powered drink which doesn’t taste like grass.

Often night shift workers don’t consume enough fruits and veggies. There are lots of reasons for this such as lack of motivation to prepare fresh meals, insufficient time to visit the grocery store and also health being deprioritized due to sleep deprivation…

So to make this whole thing easier, we adopted a “no juicing” “no fuss” method by drinking Organifi Green Juice.

We are generally not into these health food, “superfood” crazes but we have experienced positive changes in our health since drinking this daily and it’s shifted the way we think about these types of health supplements.

This is not a meal replacement or crazy diet, it is simply a way of “filling the gaps” to what you might have missed in your night shift diet.

We highly recommend this product because it’s suits us perfectly while working an irregular schedule.

We invite you to check out our shift work tools page where you can read more about Organifi and how to get your hands on some. Or if you’re keen to try it out now, check it out on Amazon here.

The bottom line with drinking green juice on night shift…
If you’re looking for a powered greens option you can simply put in your bag with no juicing, peeling or cutting required, Organifi green juice is worth a shot. However, I find it makes me need the bathroom so avoid drinking it an hour before sleep.

7. Homemade Green Juice

If you’re not into the powdered type and you prefer to be a bit more hands-on, try making a homemade green juice to take into your shift.

Some green veggies are renowned for having energy boosting qualities like:

  • Kale
  • Spinach (also a great source of iron to help us focus)
  • Chard or swiss chard (green leaves with purple stalks is how I think of it)
  • Watercress

They are also packed with lots of vitamins such as A, C, E, and K, and are all low in calories and high in fiber which is great for our gut health.

Leafy greens also keep our brains sharp, bones strong, heart healthy and bodies functioning smoothly. All the qualities we are desperate for when working the night shift.

Tips for Night Shift Workers:

We always recommend to eat your main meal before you leave for work and as closely aligned to “normal” as possible. See “When Should I Eat on Night Shift?” for more information.

Then throughout the night restrict yourself to eating only, filling small snacks. This green smoothie could replace one or at least a few of these snacks and give you an even better energy boost on most occasions.

It does take some prep time in rinsing, cutting and preparing all the veggies, but you’ll love yourself come 4am when you need an energy booster. There will be tea room food (and drink) envy for sure!

As a recipe suggestion try juicing the following together with ice prior to leaving for a shift and bring it along with you:

  • 2 cups of spinach (about 3 handfuls)
  • 2 cups of kale (about 6-8 leaves)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • ½ a cucumber
  • ½ a cup of lemon juice
  • 4 stalks of celery

Find the recipe here.

As a way of transporting your drinks and smoothies, we recommend checking out our shift work tools page here. You’ll find many reasonably priced products we use and love, to make sure there are no spills!

8. Smoothies

Along with the healthy green veggies, we can’t forget about the fruits!

Fruits can often be blamed for weight gain due to the sometimes high natural sugar content, but as a night shift worker, I think we have bigger issues then this… Unless of course you’re extreme training and under the direction of a strict diet and coach. But in my experience, those night shift workers are few and far between.

These fruits are proven to give us a boost when we need it are:

  • Acai berries – These little bundles can boost our metabolism, give us energy and assist us in losing weight.
  • Bananas – They will indirectly give you energy through the fiber controlling your blood sugar level.
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Berries – dark berries, Golgi berries, acai berries, strawberries.
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Passionfruit


There are literally hundreds of recipes online for you to create a masterpiece with these fruits. Choose ones in seasons to save a few dollars and remember to stick your juice in the fridge once you get to work.

Homemade is always better as there are less added sugars and hidden ingredients because you made it yourself.

Don’t forget about the beets!

Before I forget, beetroot is also an amazing energy booster and makes a mean energy kick when mixed with berries, wheatgrass, carrots, cucumbers and celery.

Another recipe is a small beetroot, a banana, strawberries, half an avocado, spinach and a cup of almond milk (or normal cows milk if that’s what’s in the fridge).

Beets help our bodies use oxygen more effectively and can assist in lowering blood pressure. But are often forgotten about because they can create a bit of mess. (source)

Weight Watchers (WW) Idea on Juicing…
According to WW, “research shows that liquids don’t promote the same feeling of fullness as solid foods do”. By taking away the need to physically chew it may impact on the signals your brain and belly are sending to each other. What this means is the smoothie or juice you’re drinking may not have the same “I’m full” effect as what eating a piece of whole fruit might have. (source)

9. Ginger Root Tea

I often associate ginger tea mixed with lemon when I’m feeling a little under the weather and not so much with giving me an energy boost, but it seems ginger is helpful in more ways than one.

But like a lot of herbal medicines, ginger is not completely understood. One research study said, “the lack of a complete understanding of its mechanisms of action suggests caution in its therapeutic use.”

But as a general guide, here are some potential health benefits to drinking ginger root:

  • Reduces pain, inflammation and headache
  • Prevents cramping and relaxes muscles
  • Prevents nausea and processes food
  • Stops you from getting sick and boosts your immune system. Antioxidants which fight against the stress substances wreaking havoc in our cells
  • Improves blood circulation which helps the nutrients and oxygen move around your body

How can we drink it?

  • Ginger water
  • Ginger tea

If you simply walk down the health food isle on the grocery store you’ll see a lot of products contain ginger or artificial ginger flavor, but stick to the real stuff. It will give you the most health benefits and it’s easy to prepare.

How do you make it?

  1. Boil the water on the stove
  2. Add thin slices of ginger
  3. Then once boiled pour the water in a tumbler for you to take to work and add lemon and honey. Some also recommended turmeric and fresh mint.

See below a quick video on how to make ginger water to take to your next shift.

10. Water (+ or – Bubbles)

I know I left the best till last…

From my experience when working the night shift, nothing does the job of plain water straight from the tap.

It may seem boring but I never get sick of the taste, because there isn’t one and it doesn’t come with any risks… Unless you drink more than 27-33 ounces (0.8-1.0 liters) of water per hour. (source)

On night shift I need something easy and straight forward and this is why a bottle of water ticks the boxes for me. But change is as good as a holiday and why I gave the options I did above.

In regards to drinking water here are a few options to make it a little more interesting:

  • Add bubbles! Using a soda stream can not only make the drinking experience a little more fun, but it can also make us feel full. I go into more detail here in our post about intermittent fasting
  • Add fruit. Lemon, lime, pineapple and also mint are tasty additives

What About Energy Drinks?

Look around any shift working tea room or read any online night shift forum and you’ll read about or see a can of energy drink.

So why haven’t I added them into the list of recommended beverages?

There a few major reasons why I think you can make a better choice while working night shift:

  • Large amounts of caffeine can cause serious heart and blood vessel problems like heart rhythm disturbances
  • Minimal other added health benefits besides an energy hit
  • Energy drinks provide you with a nice boost but also reduce the steadiness of the hands.
  • Energy drinks are linked with higher levels of anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, and dehydration.
  • Often energy drinks are packed with sugar which is not only bad for the waistline but can lead to a sugar slump later in the shift.

Also if all that wasn’t enough, according to a recent study done by the Journal of the American Heart Association, they concluded that,“Drinking 32 ounces of an energy drink in a short timespan may increase blood pressure and the risk of electrical disturbances in the heart, which affect heart rhythm” (source)

Bottom line: Drinking energy drinks on night shift…
Like everything, energy drinks are okay in moderation. Stick to the smaller size as our bodies simply don’t need the “extra large” can. Limit mixing energy drinks with alcohol (especially on the job) and choose the sugar free option where possible.


  • How to Effortlessly Survive 3, 12 Hour Shifts in a Row
  • 9 Myths About Night Shift Jobs You Probably Still Believe
  • 8 Useful Hacks for Surviving Night Shift With No Sleep
  • My Top Tip for Taking Melatonin on Night Shift: Plus 10 More

In Summary: What Should I Drink on Night Shift? 10 Energy Boosting Beverages

Everyone goes through a period where “they just aren’t feeling it”. Life happens, lack of sleep gets in the way and you’ve still got to perform to your best when working your upcoming night shift.

Finding a drink that gives you an extra kick is possible in the above list, but as we say, don’t take something that will impact your sleeping pattern at the time you get home. There are plenty of options that will have you “fired up” for the time you need it, but also help you wind down when the time comes.

What do you drink when working night shift to keeping you rolling? Should we add something else to the list of options above?


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Hey there! I’m Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I’m excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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It sounds like a good idea. You’re working overnight and you need just a little boost to get you through your shift. Energy drinks are sold everywhere and they can just give you the lift you need. But energy drinks are full of sugar and caffeine and aren’t the healthiest choice to help you stay awake through your night shift. What should you be drinking instead? Let’s take a closer look.

The Science of Energy Drinks

Unlike soft drinks, like sodas or sports drinks, energy drinks are a bomb of sugar and caffeine intended to give you a short-term boost. Right now, they are one of the most consumed dietary supplements among young adults and teenagers, which is a startling statistic. The big problem is that energy drinks don’t really have any oversight from the FDA, so you can’t always control what you’re getting when you drink them. And their short-term boost isn’t necessarily what your body needs to function properly.

Healthy Tea

There are a number of teas that can naturally give you the same boost as energy drinks. Instead of grabbing a Monster or a 5-hour energy, try brewing something much healthier. The three best teas for energy during your night shift are green tea, yerba mate and ginger.

Fresh Juice

Juice can also be a great alternative to energy drinks. And we’re not just talking the sugary orange juice you can grab at the gas station. Though, in some cases, that still might be a better choice than an energy drink. Instead, make your own juices. Healthy juice can contain iron, vitamins, antioxidants, and even protein. For example, use leafy greens, berries, and nuts to make a great juice to keep you energized throughout the night.


Coffee is a much-maligned beverage to be sure, but it is far better for you than most commercially available energy drinks. Don’t be afraid to reach for it at night. If you’re choosing between energy drinks and coffee, pick coffee every time. Try to reduce the amount of sugar you use to keep it on a healthier scale.


In the end, don’t forget good old-fashioned water. Dehydration is no joke and most of the time you don’t recognize the signs until it’s too late. You may be so focused on drinks that will help keep you awake that you forget to drink enough water to get through your night shift. Make sure you have water on hand at all times.

Interested In Other Night Shift Alternatives?

The team at Fortus Healthcare Resources has great opportunities in travel nursing, contact us today for more information.

Thinkstock Whether you’re up before sunrise to pack lunches, work nights at your job or routinely stay up into the wee hours to finish projects, you’re doing shift work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines this as anything that happens outside of the “normal daylight hours” of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shift work doesn’t just impact your sleep schedule. It also disrupts the hormones and brain chemicals that control your mood, appetite and nervous and digestive system, which could affect your weight, mood and even your risk of heart disease. But you can counteract these effects—it just takes some tweaks to your habits.

Before Your Shift

Make your room bright as soon as you wake up. This will help energize you, since it helps stop your body’s production of melatonin, which is triggered by darkness and suppressed by light, says Michael Breus, PhD, author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. Turn on as many lights as you can ASAP. Some alarm clocks now come with a timed light to simulate the sunrise. If you have a lightbox (a light source used to treat seasonal affective disorder), turn it on first thing.

Exercise. “Working out—or even just doing 10 minutes of yoga or stretching—when you first wake up can boost your energy for hours to come,” says Dr. Breus.

Eat a meal, whether that means joining your family for dinner or having typical breakfast foods. What matters is the nutritional makeup of what you’re eating. A few overall guidelines: Focus on eating whole foods (instead of processed), including lean protein like chicken, fish (try salmon, which is high in omega-3 and great for concentration) and eggs, lots of veggies, and whole grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and bread. (Skip fast food.) For at least two of your meals, half of the plate should be vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter a whole grain. Make sure you get in at least two fruit servings a day.

Good-Anytime Options:

• Turkey with lettuce and tomato on 2 slices whole-grain bread with 1 Tbsp canola-oil–based mayonnaise

• 2 Tbsp peanut butter and 1 Tbsp jelly on 2 slices whole-grain bread with 1 medium apple
• 2-egg omelet with 2 slices lowfat cheese and your choice of veggies, plus 2 slices whole-grain toast.

Drink some caffeine. Research has found that for shift workers, caffeine actually works better than naps at boosting performance. And if you add skim or lowfat milk to your coffee or tea, you’ll also be getting some protein, which helps sustain your energy. But because caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours, time your last cup so there’s a bit of a gap before you go to sleep. Experts also recommend having no more than 200 mg to 300 mg of caffeine a day. That adds up to between two and four cups, depending on coffee brand and cup size—which can be deceptive. A single Starbucks grande (16 oz) coffee, for instance, has 330 mg.

During Your Shift

Get as much light as possible, especially before 4 or 5 a.m. Your goal here is to reset your circadian clock later. “Fluorescent lights are effective, but your best bet is a lightbox that’s made to treat seasonal affective disorder,” says Dr. Eastman. Keep one or two (the bigger, the better) near your computer or workstation (they’re available at and for about $50). Turn off the lightbox by 4 or 5 a.m.; after that time the light might work against you, making your sleepiest time earlier in your shift rather than later when you’re at home trying to go to sleep.

Stretch. As little as 10 minutes of activity, such as walking or doing some stretches at your desk or workstation, can get your heart rate and blood flow going. Exercise can also help combat stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Try to get at least 10 minutes every hour, even if it’s just taking a longer route to the bathroom to squeeze in some brisk walking.

Have a high-protein, high-fiber meal. This gives you a steady stream of energy. Good options include a salad made of quinoa (a grain that’s high in protein), chopped veggies and beans, or yogurt mixed with whole-grain cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber or lowfat granola and raisins. In general, you should eat every four hours to keep blood sugar and energy levels stable.

Snack on nuts. When you don’t get quality sleep, your body needs energy and craves carbs, which can pack on the pounds. Instead, grab a handful of nuts. “They’ve got healthy fats, fiber and protein, which help you feel full quickly,” explains Stephanie Middleberg, RD, a nutritionist based in New York City. About an ounce (enough to fill the center of your palm) should do the trick. If you have a sweet tooth, try a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, or a fruit-and-nut bar (such as one from Larabar, KIND or Kashi TLC).

Hydrate. It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger. Water’s best, but if you need a little sweetness, add just a splash of 100% fruit juice to a bottle of water.

Draw the blinds (if possible, and especially if you’re near a window) during your last two to three hours of work. This creates a psychological signal for your body to start winding down.

When Your Shift Ends

Have a light meal. Do this ASAP to avoid eating right before you go to sleep, when your system should be winding down. (Ideally, you should eat two hours before turning in.) If you’re digesting food, it’ll be harder to fall asleep.

Avoid morning light. Experts agree that putting on sunglasses before you walk out the door is the way to go, but be sure you’re taking safety into account. Standard glasses are fine if you’re getting a ride or taking public transportation, but if you’re driving yourself, choose “blue blocker” lenses (such as those from Uvex, Oakley and Alta Vision; $14–$50 for the higher-end ones). They enhance contrast, so you’ll see better behind the wheel.

Go to sleep as soon as you can. This will help ensure that you get the sleep you need. Make your bedroom as dark as possible, wear an eye mask and keep the thermostat low (your body sleeps best in cool temperatures).

If you’re really struggling to fall asleep, ask your doctor about taking a melatonin supplement. Even though it’s available without a prescription, some people wake up very groggy from it, and taking too much can cause serious side effects such as nightmares, so be sure to check in with your physician before you try it.

Sara Reistad-Long is a health writer and reporter and the cofounder of


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Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Are you stuck trying to buy the perfect gift for the hard-working, fabulous nurse in your life? Maybe you’re looking to surprise them with a little more than a bottle of champagne or a token bunch of flowers?

We’ve got you covered.

Updated Nov 2019** just in time for Christmas!

I’ve put together a bunch of different gift ideas, varying in cost, perfect for the Christmas KK and even that special birthday present. Rest assured – they won’t break the bank!

Practical Gifts for Nurses <$20

Nurse Badge Holder

Nurse Badge Reel Holder – 3 Pack

See the nurse badge Reel Holder via here

Human Anatomy Course

Get your nursing friend/relative ahead of the pack with this informative human anatomy course!

See it via here

Nursing Bracelet

“Do no harm, but take no sh*t nursing bracelet.

See this simple yet gorgoeus bracelet on here.

Pen Torch + Scissors

See this nifty pair via Amazon or a single pair of scissiors easily clipable onto uniform here.

Nurse Clip Board

Save One Life And You’re A Hero. Save A Hundred Lives And You’re A Nurse Clipboard

Colorful clipboard features a powerful clip so papers won’t slip and will help keep them organized

See it here via Positive Promotions.

Funny Nursing Books

The transition from student to RN can be very scary and you often feel like you don’t know anything!

Oh Sh*t, I Almost Killed You! sums up what they forget to teach you in nursing school in a very fun and humorous way. It’s a must-read for any nurse!

See it here on Amazon and let them have a laugh.

Nursing T’Shirt

Coffee, Scrubs, Rubber Gloves | Funny Doctor Nurse Cute V-Neck T-Shirt for Women

See it via here

Stethoscope Carry Case

BOVKE Travel Carrying Case for Classic III Stethoscope – Extra Room for Taylor Percussion Reflex Hammer and Reusable LED Penlight

See it via here

Novelty Lunchbox

Fred E.M.T. (Emergency Meal Transport) Insulated Lunch Tote

See it on Amazon

Related post: 6 Healthy, Freezable Shift Work Meal Ideas for Beginners ​

Aromatherapy Diffuser

URPOWER 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser Aroma Essential Oil Cool Mist Humidifier

All you need now is some oil and we recommend the beautiful introductory oil, three-piece set by doTERRA.

See it on Amazon

Related post: Can’t Sleep After Night Shift? 13 Weird Tips That Actually Work​

Phone and key Tracking Device

“Did you see where I put my keys”

This tracking device is ideal for those nurses who constantly lose their things! My nursing girlfriend uses her daily and it works without fail.

This item is just over the $20 limit but is worth the few extra dollars in my opinion.

See it on Amazon

Related post: Shift Work While Pregnant: Survival Tips from 46 Busy Moms

Practical Gifts for Nurses <$50

Mini Stethoscope earings

Mini Stethoscope Stud Earrings – Sterling Silver (also available in rose gold)

See these cute earrings via here

Nursing Themed Tote Bag

Large Nursing Tote Bags for Nurses

See via here

Nursing Tumbler

“Safety 1st Drink with a Nurse” -12 oz Stainless Steel Stemless Wine Tumbler with Lid and Straw

See the nursing tumbler on Amazon here

Related post: What Should I Drink on Night Shift? 10 Energy Boosting Beverages

Nursing Reference Badge Cards

I remember carrying around a little notepad with me during my first few years of nursing trying to remember everything!

That’s until I discovered these nifty nursing reference cards and I soon put my tattered, tea and bloodstained (eek!) book into storage.

These cards look super professional, are easy to comprehend and above all – were undeniably helpful!

See the brilliant nursing reference cards on Amazon


I am a tea girl at heart and nothing makes me more upset than a thermos which leaks at 6.30am onto my clean scrubs.

People rave about this spill-proof, insulated tumbler which fits nicely into the cup holder in your car!

You can also check out our video review here for more information.

See it on Amazon

Related post: How to Stay Fit While Working Nights: 12 Sneaky Tips

Compression Socks

Give your nursing pal some relief in their legs and calves and limit swelling after a long shift. These durable compression socks are high quality and designed to last – which they do! I still have my pair from 4 years ago.

Just don’t go too big as I found they can fall down.

See it on Amazon

Slow Cooker/Crockpot

There is nothing quite like waking up after a night shift to the smell of a home-cooked meal wafting from the slow cooker.

Our crockpot (a smaller version of the one pictured) is one of the most frequently used appliances in our kitchen.

See it on Amazon

Related post: 7 Essential Night Shift Tips: Making the Impossible a Reality

Back and Shoulder Relief – Heat pack

After showering and dressing multiple people at work, I often get sharp neck and shoulder pain.

However, the pain is often relieved with heat from my shoulder heat wrap which is now a solid part of my ‘winding down’ process.

See it on Amazon

Practical Gifts for Nurses: $50 – $100

Basic Life Support Certification

The ultimate practical gift. Prepare your nursing friend or family member with the skills to know what to do in an emergency. Fast, Accredited, Online ACLS & BLS Certifications through the ACLS Certification Institute

Read more and what courses are available for purchase through ACLS Certification Institute

Comfortable Nursing Clogs

Dansko Women’s Wide Clog

See them via here

How to Relieve Foot and Leg Pain from Standing All Day

Swanwick Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Check out which blue light blocking glasses we recommended – HERE See the Swanwick Sleep Website – HERE

We are obsessed with these Swanwick “Swannies” blue light blocking glasses because they help us fall asleep AND stay asleep!

The light coming from your phone, T.V, computer and even your reading light is keeping you awake – despite how tired you may be. I know, it’s kind of shocking.

These glasses are the perfect gift for anyone exposed to light at night – which is pretty much everyone but is also great for night shift workers trying to escape the morning sunrise.

See them on the Swanwick Sleep Website

Related post: Should You Nap During Night Shift?

Littmann Stethoscope

Littmann Stethoscopes by far exceed the competition (in my opinion) and make the perfect, long-lasting gift.

The sound quality, materials and durability make the higher price point worth the investment. I’ve tried cheaper stethoscopes but ended up with sore ears and a pretty poor patient assessment!

Consider a beautiful carry case too, as simply throwing it in your work bag takes years off the lifespan.

See it on Amazon

SuperGreen TONIK

Nures are SO busy looking after everyone else’s health they often forget to look after their own.

I rely on SuperGreen TONIK green Juice to help “fill the gaps” from what I may have missed in my diet.

I know this may seem like a strange gift, but this is sometimes an area nurses neglect because they can’t afford it… so you are actually doing them a favor.

Check out SuperGreen TONIK Here and enter “othershift10” for 10% off your entire order as a Christmas gift from us 🙂

Practical Gifts for Nurses: > $100

Global Knife Set

Us nurses simply don’t have the time or patience for blunt knives.

If we’re going to throw together a slow-cooked meal after a long night shift, you’d better hope our equipment works well or the family may become victim to a full-blown tantrum.

We have this entire set (also received as a gift) and it’s my favorite kitchen accessory by far!

See it on Amazon

Related post: 12 Valuable Meal Prep Tips for Busy Shift Workers

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  • Always Sick as a New Nurse? 10 Tricks to Beat The Blues
  • Insomnia and Shift Work Sleep Disorder Medication Review

Buying gifts for the amazing nurse in your life doesn’t need to be a stressful experience.

Next time you’re hitting the shops or filling up your Amazon cart, think about items that provide a level of “self-love” for your special person as they more than likely haven’t had much time for it lately!

Happy Shopping!

If you enjoyed this article on gifts for nurses or have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below!


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Hey there! I’m Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I’m excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

If you’re anything like me, I am so incredibly hungry after working a night shift. But which foods keep your belly satisfied, prevent unnecessary weight gain and won’t disrupt your sleep? Let’s…

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If you have been taking more night shifts than usual, here’s the bad news.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder is real and it can cause awful consequences at work.

You’ll be more likely to commit errors while caring for your patients. You’ll be more irritable and you’ll have poor coping skills.

And you know what’s worse?

This disorder can lead to alcohol and drug dependency.

Scary, right?

The good news is that Shift Work Sleep Disorder can be avoided and the solution is simple:


Now, as a busy nurse working in a busy area that doesn’t have enough personnel, that can be tricky. So, to help you deal with and avoid SWSD, here are some of the most effective and best sleep aids you can use.

The Right Mattress

If your back pain is making it difficult for you to get some rest, one of the first things you need to check is your mattress. After all, it’s literally where you sleep so it needs to be comfortable.

Sagging, squeaking and creaking are sure signs that you need a new mattress. If it’s more than 8 years old, it’s also a sign that you need to consider getting a replacement.

Now, before you actually head out and buy a new one, it’s important that you know exactly what to look for. Know your frequent sleeping position, sleeping habits and budget before you choose. You can also read reviews of mattresses for back pain so you’ll know which brands to keep an eye out for.

The Right Pillows

Like your mattress, your pillows can greatly affect your sleep, too. If they are hard or they don’t match your dominant sleeping position, you can end up with arm numbness, headache and neck pain.

Surprisingly, finding the right pillow for you can require trial-and-error. One good reason is that your neck actually takes around 10 to 15 minutes before it can relax onto the pillow. This means that a simple squeeze at the store won’t tell you that much.

Dark curtains

Exposure to light on your way home can activate your body’s daytime clock. This can make it hard for you to get to sleep once you’re in bed.

One way you can solve this is by investing in a good blackout curtain. It’s an opaque, foam-backed fabric that can black out much of the light that can pass through your windows. It can also help you save on energy by trapping heat during the colder season and keeping the heat out during the warmer months- perfect for making your room more comfortable to rest in.

Sleep mask

In case getting and fitting blackout curtains in your room don’t fit your budget or your schedule, you can just get a sleep mask. It’s affordable and you can practically buy it from a lot of stores.

But, here’s the thing:

Not all sleep masks are the same.

There are sleep masks that work better for side sleepers than those who sleep on their back. Some sleep masks can block out more light than others.

If you just want to prevent some level of unwanted light to creep in, go with a sleep mask that can block as much as 98% of light. However, if you’ll be sleeping in a very bright room, choose one with 99% to 100% light-blocking capability.

In addition to that, you also have to pay close attention to a sleep mask’s material. Natural cotton can provide supreme comfort. Soft satin is also nice as it can help you relax and sleep faster.

Essential oils

For a natural and non-toxic solution to fix your sleeping issues, why not try essential oils?

These oils can promote a restful night’s sleep as long as you’re able to find the right ones. You can use them with your diffuser or you can dilute them with the right carrier oil before massaging on your skin. You can even add them to your lotions and creams

Now, you’re probably wondering: What are the best essential oils for sleep?

You actually have a lot of options but your best choices are these:

  • Roman chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary sage
  • Valerian

White noise app

Via androidauthority

The idea might sound bizarre but a good white noise app can change your life. You can finally drown out those annoying sounds that are ruining your sleep.


Well, you can simply think of a white noise app as a form of anti-noise. It’s something that distracts your brain as it dampens other sounds, like people talking outside your room, the whirring of a fan or your partner’s snoring.

Now, here’s a tip:

If you are the type of person who easily wakes in the middle of your sleep, skip the app and go with a device that can keep working for several hours. Most timed apps can stop working after an hour and if you wake up by that time, you’ll find it hard to doze off again.


If white noise apps don’t work for you, an inexpensive alternative is to wear a pair of earplugs. They can block out noise if they can fit perfectly to your ears.

However, there’s a catch.

Ear plugs can mostly block air-transmitted sounds and may have limited effect to vibration sounds.

See Also: 8 Easy Tips On How Nurses Can Recover From Night Shifts


Getting a good sleep when you have an inconsistent work schedule can be tough but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. With a bit of trial-and-error and discipline, you’ll be able to find the best sleep aids that will work for you.

A word of caution:

Although it’s tempting to find a quick fix to solve your sleeping issues, avoid it as much as possible. Taking a pill to help you to get to sleep faster and longer can only leave you dependent on it. Plus, such quick fixes can be detrimental to your health in the long run.

So stay on the safe side and pay close attention to what your body really needs to rest. Remember, not all sleep aids for night shift workers can work for you.

See Also: 25 Night Shift Memes For Nurses

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Sleep & Wellness Hub

Adapting to shift work and getting the right amount of sleep as a shift worker is often extremely difficult, particularly when you’re just starting in your role. Your ability to become accustomed to new lifestyle and sleeping patterns can depend on a number of things, from your age and health status, to your home environment and day to day activity levels.

Working in shifts works against the body’s natural instincts and it’s often important that you are alert at night when you would normally be sleeping; and asleep during the day when you’d normally be awake. This can lead to numerous health problems and although not all shift workers face these issues, there are a high percent that do.

According to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the risk of occupational accidents is 60% higher for night shift workers; and shift workers are also more at risk of heart disease and mood disorders. One of the most common health ailments that shift workers face is sleep disorder.

Night shift sleeping disorder symptoms include suffering from insomnia when it comes time to sleep, excessive tiredness when they should be alert, not feeling refreshed enough after sleep, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating, and even depression.

Although commonly shift workers and sleep deprivation are two phrases that go hand in hand; by following some shift worker sleep tips, they don’t have to.

Tip 1: Prepare Yourself.

If you know you have shift changes coming at work, prepare in advance. Start to change the pattern of your sleep at least three days prior. Go to bed later or get up earlier. Start with a few hours difference on the first day, and knock it back until you’re sleeping on the third day in line with your new routine.

Tip 2: Watch what you eat and drink.

Plan your meal times based on when you’d normally eat. Have “breakfast” within an hour of waking up; plan your lunch for a few hours later and so on. If you can, take snacks to work with you to keep you alert during the shift. You want to eat foods that are easily digestible, fruit and vegetables. Stay clear of fatty food as they tend to promote drowsiness; and sugary food which is likely to give you a short boost in your energy levels, but will leave you feeling worse for wear once the boost subsides.

Tip 3: Get plenty of exercise.

Getting the right amount of exercise is guaranteed to boost your energy levels and help to promote good sleeping habits. Just 30 minutes of light physical activity a day can greatly improve your fitness levels and if you can make it to the gym before you head off to work, you’re guaranteed to feel fresher and more energised – ready to take on your shift.

Tip 4: Stay away from drugs.

Avoid introducing drugs to your body that could result in an addiction or a dependency. That includes everything from sleeping tablets or excessive alcohol to help you get the rest you desire; to energy drinks, hard drugs and other stimulants that are designed to keep you awake.

Tip 5: Change begins at work.

You can start to change your sleeping routine at home by making minor changes at work. Before you start work, do some basic stretches or light exercise. During your shift, take short breaks regularly, even if that means just taking a 5 minute walk around the office or ward. Keep the lights bright so that your mind doesn’t go into rest mode, and talk to your co-workers when possible. Drive straight home and avoid stopping along the way.

Tip 6: Adjust your sleep schedule.

The best sleep patterns for shift workers depend on the job itself and your hours, so you need to establish what works for you. Generally you need to get 7-8 hours sleep a night. If you don’t think you can manage that, at least try to get 5-6 hours and rest for another two.

Tip 7: Follow a routine.

Imagine that you’re living a “regular” working life where you go to work at 9am, come home at 5pm, have dinner, shower, watch a little television then head off to bed. Do the same when you work shifts. Avoid exercise and caffeine for at least 2-3 hours before sleep, have a light meal so you will sleep longer, and take a bath or relax on the couch.

Tip 8: Change your sleep environment.

One of the best night shift sleep tips is to get some black-out curtains or blinds that can help turn bright into night. Make sure the bedroom isn’t too hot as humidity is guaranteed to keep you awake. Try to sleep in a quiet corner of the house, use ear plugs to block out any noise, or turn on a little white noise in the background, such as your air conditioner or a fan. Turn your phone off, and if your partner and/or children are home, ask them if they can keep things quiet for a few hours.

Tip 9: Get the right mattress.

Having a good mattress is imperative to a great sleep. A good quality mattress that’s right for you should have you feeling comfortable all night long and waking up feeling refreshed. Sealy mattresses are constructed using hundreds of coil springs arranged in a structured way to form the core of the mattress. A combination of specially selected comfort layers and premium natural materials are applied above the spring unit to assist in conformance and pressure relief.

Choose the right size to suit your sleep requirements -from a single mattress that you can fit into a spare room; to our Super King mattress so you can stretch out, roll around and feel as though you’re floating on a cloud.

When it comes to dealing with shift work and sleep deprivation, we hope the above sleeping tips for shift workers help to provide you some relief so you can get back to living a comfortable and happy life.

Life hacks: How to cope with night shifts

What do doctors, nurses, firefighters, truck drivers, and air traffic controllers all have in common? Many of them work night shifts. Whether you are an early riser or a night owl, working shifts at night can be challenging. We have compiled some tips to help you cope with working into the late and early hours of the day.

Share on PinterestNight shifts can prove challenging for the body and mind, but there are steps that you can take to help you cope better.

Due to our modern 24-hour society, nearly 15 million people in the United States work full-time night shifts, evening shifts, rotational shifts, or other such irregular schedules. What is more, almost 19 percent of adult workers work for 48 hours or more every week, and more than 7 percent work for 60 hours or more each week.

Shift work and long working hours have been linked to a number of health issues, according to the National Sleep Foundation. These include an increased risk of metabolic problems, heart disease, gastrointestinal difficulties, obesity, and certain cancers.

Night shift work may also interfere with the body’s ability to repair DNA damage that occurs from normal cellular processes. The suppression of melatonin — which is the hormone responsible for regulating the internal body clock — may play a role.

Individuals need to work through the night for numerous reasons. Finding ways to cope can be the difference between living a healthy existence and being subjected to the many health and safety risks that are elevated during night shifts. Here are Medical News Today’s coping strategies for working after dark.

1. Manage sleep patterns

Some people can work at night with no problem at all, while others experience sleep deprivation and fatigue. This is because the human body is designed to sleep at night-time.

Share on PinterestEnsure that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool to promote better sleep.

The human body is controlled by an internal body clock, or circadian pacemaker, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN generates circadian rhythms, which regulate behavioral and physiological processes in the body, including alertness, sleep, temperature control, and hormone production.

Circadian rhythms run in 24-hour cycles and are significantly influenced by the natural light and dark cycles. Many of the processes in your body that are active in the daytime slow down at night to prepare you for sleep. At night, the circadian pacemaker releases the sleep hormone melatonin from the pineal gland, which causes you to feel less alert and raises your desire to sleep.

Night shifts cause you to battle against your natural rhythms by trying to be alert when you are programmed to be sleeping. Similarly, when you go home after a night shift, the cues from your internal body clock and daytime light exposure tell you to be awake and active.

Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function at their best. If you sleep for under that amount, you will incur “sleep debt.” The only way to pay back sleep debt is to catch up on sleep you have missed, and this has to occur as soon as possible after it is incurred.

Working at night involves successfully managing your sleep during the day — that is, to keep sleep debt to a minimum — and your fatigue during the night. Daytime sleep can be lighter, shorter, and of poorer quality than sleep at night due to light, noise, and temperature.

Try these steps to keep your sleep in check and make your environment more favorable for sleep.

  • Do not delay going to bed. The longer you delay going to bed, the more awake you are likely to become.
  • Try to set aside a block of 7 to 9 hours to dedicate to sleep after a night shift.
  • Have something to eat and drink before you go to bed. Pangs of hunger or thirst may wake you up.
  • Avoid alcohol before you try to sleep. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it diminishes sleep quality and disturbs the deep stages of sleep, which will leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day.
  • Avoid smoking before bed. Nicotine is a stimulant and can therefore cause you to experience difficulties in getting to sleep.
  • Stay away from activities that make you feel more alert until the hours before your next shift.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Use earplugs to block out daytime noise and blackout curtains to prevent daylight entering the room. Electric fans can be useful to keep air circulating and provide neutral background noise.
  • Notify friends and family of your working hours so that they do not disturb you.

If this is your last shift in a block of night shifts, remember that the more days in a row that you have been working through the night, the more sleep debt you will likely have accrued. Repaying some of the sleep debt that you accumulate as quickly as possible will help you to recover sooner.

2. Control light exposure

Exposure to light cues chemical events to be triggered by the circadian pacemaker that affects your sleep and wake cycles. For example, melatonin is released as it gets dark in the evening to make you feel drowsy, while melatonin is suppressed and cortisol elevated by the morning light to make you feel more awake.

Share on PinterestWear sunglasses on your journey home to suppress light exposure.

Artificial light can affect your circadian pacemaker in the same way as sunlight, and timed exposure to bright light can help to alter your body’s sleep cycle.

During night shifts, you can try to “trick” your body into an alert state with exposure to bright light, and promote sleep by suppressing light exposure after your shift.

Research has shown that night workers who were exposed to bright light during their shift and wore sunglasses on the way home to suppress light drifted off to sleep quicker and slept for longer after their shift than people who received no bright light exposure. Furthermore, another study found that intermittent exposure to bright light is almost as effective as continual exposure.

Beware of exposure to blue light emitted from digital devices, such as your smartphone, tablet, or television, before you go to bed after a night shift. Research has suggested that blue light knocks our circadian rhythms off-kilter, which signals to your brain that it is daytime and results in poorer sleep quality.

Ways that you can control your exposure to light include:

  • increasing bright light exposure during your shift with regular overhead lights or a bright desk lamp or lightbox
  • wearing sunglasses on your journey home
  • using blackout blinds, curtains, or drapes or a sleep mask to block out daylight in your bedroom
  • not watching TV before you go to bed
  • switching off digital devices situated in your bedroom, including powering down tablets and computers, putting your phone away, and blocking light from bright alarm clocks

Keeping your bedroom dark will help to keep your body in sleep mode until it is time for you to wake up and begin your day.

3. Watch your diet

When typical daily rhythm is thrown off balance, so too is metabolism. Night shift workers are more likely to experience metabolic syndrome and have a 29 percent increased risk of becoming overweight or obese due to poor diet and the disruption of the body clock.

Planning your meals can help you to stay alert during your working hours and be more relaxed when you need to sleep.

Share on PinterestTake healthful foods and snacks to work to both keep you alert and prevent obesity.

  • Try to stick to a similar eating pattern to the one that you would follow during the daytime.
  • Eat frequent light meals or healthful snacks to avoid the drowsiness that is associated with heavy meals.
  • Choose foods that are easy for your body to digest, including bread, rice, pasta, salad, milk products, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as fried, spicy, and processed meals.
  • Steer clear of sugary foods. Although they provide a short-term energy boost, this is quickly followed by an energy dip.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables. Sugars from these are converted slowly into energy, and they are an important source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Keep hydrated while you are working to promote physical and mental performance, but do not overload the bladder with fluid before bed.

Access to the grocery store and adequate facilities to prepare food can be hard for night workers. Be prepared and take food to work to ensure that you eat properly and stay alert.

4. Take a nap

Taking a nap can become an essential element of working safely overnight. While a short nap before you start your shift can help to combat fatigue, a nap during your break may be vital for maintaining alertness and remaining vigilant.

Share on PinterestTake a 45-minute nap during your break to help you feel refreshed and to restore brainpower.

A nap taken midway through the day has been shown to boost and restore brainpower. Even naps of 20 to 45 minutes in length have proven beneficial for shift workers to counteract fatigue.

Ideally, your night shift naps should not exceed 45 minutes. Sleep is comprised of different stages, which complete in cycles of between 90 and 100 minutes. One sleep cycle runs from light sleep to deep sleep.

Be careful about how long you nap for in order to ensure that you do not wake up during deep sleep. Deep sleep waking is associated with greater sleep inertia, meaning that you will take longer to feel alert and will not feel refreshed.

5. Use caffeine wisely

Caffeine is a stimulant. When used carefully, your daily dose of coffee can help you to remain alert throughout a shift. However, improper use can cause gastrointestinal upsets and muscle shakes.

Share on PinterestSmall regular doses of caffeine can enhance wakefulness and help you to perform better.

Most people take a huge dose of coffee at the start of their shift in order to jump-start their day. However, research suggests taking a different approach to maximize the effects of caffeine for shift workers.

Workers that consumed smaller — equivalent to quarters of cups of coffee — and more frequent doses of caffeine throughout their day experienced enhance wakefulness, performed better on cognitive tests, and had fewer accidental naps than those who had had no caffeine.

Some evidence suggests that the effects of caffeine kick in after around 20 minutes, and that a small dose of caffeine before a nap can counter the sleep inertia you may experience after you awake.

Caffeine use should be stopped around 6 hours before bedtime to ensure that the stimulant does not affect your sleep.

Every person is different, so finding the right combination of techniques that suit you best may take time. Applying some of the above strategies may help you on your way to coping better with working at night and ensuring that you get the right amount of sleep to function properly.

The overnight shift is killing you — so here’s what you can do

No wonder it’s called the graveyard shift.

A growing body of research warns that working overnight is destroying your health. The University of Colorado at Boulder just reported that eating at night and sleeping by day — as night-shift workers must do — alters more than 100 key proteins in the blood, including those influencing blood sugar, energy metabolism and immune function. That could explain why overnight workers are more prone to issues like diabetes, obesity and certain cancers — and why night-shift employees like Paolo Guimaraes often feel just plain awful.

“I have been more irritable, and have had an increased appetite,” said Guimaraes, 44, a direct support professional for the developmentally disabled, whose duties include giving medication, cooking, light housework and providing transportation for two Florida group homes. He began working night shifts in 2016 because it pays $3 more per hour than the day rate. He starts at 11 p.m. four nights a week, and works until anywhere from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., depending on the day.

Guimaraes also suffers from sleep apnea, which makes the six hours of sleep he gets — already short of the recommended seven to nine hours — even less restful. “I may sleep a short time and wake up still tired,” he said, adding, “although it has been rough, I am happy. I enjoy the work, and the people I work with.”

Melissa Calvo, 43, a Long Island mother of three, worked from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. three days a week as a labor and delivery nurse for 11 years. “But nobody ever really gets used to working the night shift and sleeping during the daytime,” she told Moneyish. “Weight gain was a big issue for the night girls — because you’re sleeping half the day when you should be eating, and then eating when your body should be sleeping. And not seeing the sun, you feel so off and tired all of the time, and you’re cranky.”

She didn’t have a choice when she was first assigned nights at age 26, as the day shifts went to veteran nurses, but said the schedule actually worked for her family because she could come home in time to put the kids on the school bus in the morning, nap, and then take care of chores and picking them up from school in the afternoon while her husband worked. “I missed a lot of sleep because I had a hard time sleeping during the day,” she said. “I’d end up doing laundry or getting dinner together. I was ‘class mom’ and went on field trips.”

About 15 million Americans work full time on evening shifts (until 11 p.m. or so), the night shift (often 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.), rotating shifts (taking turns covering continuous 24-hour shifts, like in hospitals, running two or three shifts per day), or other irregular schedules. Most are blue-collar workers like police officers and firefighters, nurses, bartenders and food servers, manufacturing plant employees and transportation workers. And toiling overnight takes its toll on them.

ALSO READ: Not getting enough sleep — like Gayle King — makes us worse at work.

“There are all kinds of physical and mental issues with night-shift work that mirror what we’ve seen for short sleepers in general,” Chris Brantner, a certified sleep coach and founder of, told Moneyish.

The World Health Organization classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen in 2007 because its disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm — which signals our cells to produce specific hormones at specific times based on a 24-hour day-night cycle — appears to have cancer-causing effects.

That’s recently come into question by a 2016 Oxford study, but a 2012 study of 18,500 Danish women between 1964 and 1999 found those that worked nights had a 40% higher risk of developing breast cancer. In 2015, an international team of researchers studied women working rotating night shifts for five or more years, and found they carried an 11% greater mortality risk from all causes, and a 19% greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) death. Women on rotating night shifts for 15 years or more were 23% more likely to die from CVD, and 25% more likely to die from lung cancer.

Plus, the night shift lifestyle is linked with behaviors that increase cancer risk, such as getting insufficient sleep, smoking, eating junk food and getting less sleep. Night-shift work has also been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress. And then there’s simple fatigue, which can lead to car accidents, poor decision-making and worsening mood.

ALSO READ: Women who do this all night suffer the most at work the next day

Part of the problem is that going against the natural day-night cycle has only been picked up by many workers and students in the last 100 years or so. “Our bodies are tied to that natural circadian rhythm where the sun goes down, and our body starts winding down; and when the sun comes up, our bodies want to wake up,” said Brantner. “So if you spin that around, you are basically trying to reprogram your body … and our evolution hasn’t figured out how to deal with that yet.”

It can also impact relationships, research shows, as many night shift workers start feeling isolated from friends and family because it’s hard to wake up for those barbecues or birthday parties when you’re feeling jet-lagged every day. Exhaustion and irritability aren’t aphrodisiacs for your sex life, either, for the rare times your hours do overlap with a partner working a more traditional schedule.

Not everyone can change their hours or get another job, however. Plus, many people like Guimaraes love their gigs, irregular hours and all. So here are some ways that night-owl workers can take care of themselves:

Stick to a schedule. Our bodies thrive on routine. Come home from work and sleep at the same time every morning, and wake up at the same time each afternoon. And stick to that schedule — even on your days off. You may want to reverse it to see family and friends, but “the best thing you can do is keep your own regular hours,” said Brantner. “Sleep during the day and stay up at night, so that you don’t throw your routine off again.”

Wear dark glasses. It’s hard for many night workers to sleep in the morning. “Whether you’re tired or not, you’re hit in the face with sunlight, and that’s not going to help your brain think, ‘OK, it’s time to go to bed,’” said Brantner. “Wear dark glasses or blue light-blocking glasses when you get off your shift, to trick your brain into thinking it’s time to wind down.”

Black out your bedroom. You need to get a full “night’s” sleep when you get home, so make your room as night-like as possible. Hang blackout curtains to keep the sun out. Play a white noise app to block out daytime noises. Keep screens like your phone, laptop, tablet and TV out. And try aromatherapy, like lavender or chamomile. “Make your bedroom a place of relaxation — and keep all light out,” said Brantner. And writing a to-do list for just five minutes before you lie down can help you pass out 1o minutes faster.

Only drink coffee early in your shift. “A lot of people drink coffee to try to stay awake, but that caffeine will stay in your system for about six hours,” warned Brantner. “Even if you are able to fall asleep … you’re not getting the deep sleep that you need.” Wake up at work by taking a walk, drinking water, playing upbeat music, or turning down the temperature instead.

ALSO READ: Is ‘pink noise’ the secret to a good night’s sleep?

And don’t drink alcohol when you get off. Having a “nightcap” to unwind when you get home the next morning is a Zs buzzkill. “Even one or two drinks can affect the second half of your sleep, because your body starts processing it as a stimulant,” explained Brantner. “That’s why if you’ve ever had too many drinks, you wake up at four in the morning staring at the ceiling. It also suppresses the REM sleep you need.”

Eat healthy. “Your hunger hormones are out of whack from lack of sleep, and we know that people who sleep six hours or fewer per night on average consume about 300 extra calories the following day,” said Brantner. So pack your own healthy bites, like almonds, an apple and some string cheese, and sip plenty of water, instead of opting for vending-machine candy and soda. Sugary stuff will perk you up in the short-term, but eventually lead to a crash.

Exercise. Working out can counteract a number of night-shift side effects: It helps you maintain weight and sleep better, and it also boosts mood. But when to go? Guimaraes prefers working out in the afternoon before work. “I go after I have had some sleep, so I feel a bit recharged,” he said. Brantner recommends that, as well. “There is some worry that working out before bed (in the morning for night shift workers) can ramp you up and up your core temperature, making it more difficult to go to sleep,” he said.

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“Beware of the deep dark,” says Teresa Wren, who has worked the night shift for 30 years as a labor-and-delivery nurse at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. With sufficient sleep during the day, you can stay alert, but you’ll have to get through a wave of fatigue between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Take a short nap if you can. Wren warns against eating unhealthful snacks or candy to stay awake; her go-to weapons against the darkness are one caffeinated diet soda per night and a walk up and down the external stairwell in the cool air.

Schedule your nights as though they were days. The world won’t be broadcasting the passage of time at you with school bells, lunch specials, happy hours and traffic. “Time is either dragging or it’s flying by,” says Wren, who eats a family dinner (her breakfast) before work. If you drink caffeine, do so at the start of your shift and cut yourself off at least five hours before you intend to sleep. Take a lunch break in the middle of the night. Keep your work space well lit. It helps to have stimulating, nonrepetitive work (childbirth, in Wren’s case).

Because you are a diurnal mammal with a 24-hour circadian rhythm, your body wants to be awake during the day; around sunrise your levels of the hormone cortisol will peak. Treat morning as your bedtime and quash that rush of steroidal energy. When Wren gets home, she drinks a cup of herbal tea, reads the paper, talks with her husband and then goes to sleep for a minimum of six hours. Working the night shift puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal problems, psychological issues like anxiety and depression and possibly cancer. Some people seem to be biologically incapable of adjusting to it. If that’s you, find a different job before it kills you.

If you can adapt, you’ll join the subset of nocturnal humans (as much as 30 percent of the work force in industrialized countries is estimated to work outside regular daytime hours). Years ago, Wren briefly switched to working days. She missed the after-dark collegiality, when fewer people were awake and everyone tended to look out for one another. “I couldn’t wait to get back to my night-shift people,” she says.

How to stay awake on night shift with no sleep?

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