To A Better Night’s Sleep!
Adults are a sleep challenged sub-sector of the human species. Nurses, even more so. Think rotating schedules, night shifts, over time, and high-pressure workdays. And here’s the thing; there is no magic pill to make these ‘challenges’ disappear and thus thrust you into a world of early bedtimes, sweet dreams, and easy wakeups. In fact, it is HARD to get quality shut eye as a nurse, let alone any sort of sleep at all. So, what’s there to do? After all, the nature of the nursing job isn’t changing anytime in the near future…
I have one word for you. Discipline. If sleep is something that you want badly enough (and I know you do!), there are techniques you can implement to better your sleeping habits as a nurse. Here’s to National Better Sleep Month!
Establish a Routine
It’s interesting how adults are very much like children in certain respects. When you sleep train a baby, (yes, been there done that!) one of the first things you’re told is to establish a consistent routine consisting of 2-3 relaxing activities that signal to your child that it is now time for bed. And ta-da!! You, the adult nurse, should do the same! Set a time that you’d like to be in bed each night, (or morning, if you’re working the night shift), and about an hour before bedtime, start your routine. It may include reading something, listening to music, taking a warm bath etc. Whatever it is, try to start it at the same time each night and perform it in the same order each night. After all, us humans thrive on predictability! This will relax you and help you drift off easily
Back to the baby sleep training. When you’ve got a little one that refuses to sleep you will take any and all measures to get that kid to fall asleep. That includes blackout shades, a sound machine to drown out any external noises, and temperature control. You are not a baby, but we want you sleeping like one. So yes, go buy the blackest shades you can find, pick up a noise machine at your local Target (the Homedics one is fabulous;), and lower the thermostat. This is especially important for NOC nurses, as it’s daytime for the rest of the world.
Exercise not only keeps you in tip top shape, but it promotes better sleeping. Fact. But be warned. Exercise should be done well before bedtime, as in at least 3 hours before bedtime. Most people are under the impression that a late night workout will help tire your body out thus priming you for a nice, loooong sleep. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, working out before bedtime will disrupt your stable heart rate, which is one of the core factors of restorative sleep. Exercise also dehydrates you, as well as releases your body’s stress hormones, consequently leaving you extra alert. That being said, DO go ahead and exercise, but be mindful of when.
And then of course, there are all the give-ins. Don’t use any electronics before bed as even the smallest amounts of light emitted can lead to wakefulness. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime. If you’re trying to get a proper night’s sleep, caffeine is the ultimate saboteur. And of course, don’t drink alcohol too close to lights out. While it may make you sleepy, you’re bound to wake up well before your mind and body are actually rested.
There you have it, folks. Nurses may not have a job conducive to proper sleep, but with awareness and discipline you can make better sleep the norm. Hey, at least you get to wear scrubs to work. AKA,the closest thing to pajamas:)