Sleep Routine of a Night Shift Nurse

Every night shift nurse knows how important sleep is. Sleeping is something that is unique to every person. I’ve always been the kind of person who needs the optimum amount of sleep to function properly. When I was in college, I never pulled an all nighter. In fact, when I had to do my first night shift clinical, I was convinced there was no way I would be able to stay up the entire night. I was terrified. I also told myself there was no way I’d do night shifts…

But here we are! I signed up for night shifts for a few reasons:

  • A slower pace allows for more opportunities for a baby nurse to learn
  • My partner wanted to work night shifts, and I wanted to be on the same schedule
  • Night shift gets a pay differential

So, I had to adapt quickly and figure out what sleep routine works best for me.

white bed comforter
Photo by Jaymantri on

I work three 12-hour shifts a week, from about 7pm to 7am (actually 6:30pm to 7:30am…). So, I leave for work around 6pm, and I get home the next morning around 8am. My sleeping varies depending on how many shifts I have to work in a row.

My ideal schedule is to work 3 shifts in a row so I don’t have to “flip back” to day schedule too much.

For two or three shifts, my routine goes like this:
  1. Stay up as late as possible the night before. I’ll keep myself busy by cleaning, working on my Etsy shop, meal prepping, watching movies, etc. Normally I can stay up until 3 or 4am. (I know some people who go to bed at a normal time, wake up super early, and then take a nap. I find that that just doesn’t work for me).
  2. Wake up on the day of my shift around 3pm (depending on when I went to sleep). 12 hours might seem like a lot, but I find that sleeping during the day is not as restful at night. I’ll have a coffee or some type of caffeine on my way into work.
  3. Around midnight, I might get that “slumped” feeling if we’re not too busy. I’ll have an energy drink then, and I’ll eat my lunch. I won’t normally have energy later than 3 or 4am so it doesn’t keep me up!
  4. After I get home around 8am, I’ll eat breakfast with my partner and play with our dogs. I’ll lay things out for the day, and then go to sleep around 9am.
  5. For the next shifts, I’ll wake up around 4:30pm or 5:00om, and repeat.
  6. When I come off work and don’t have to go back in the next day, I try to stay up later in the day and just take a small afternoon nap so I can be back to dayshift life. Disclaimer: I’m so bad at this, and I normally take 2 days to fully flip back (which is why I like the 3 shifts in a row so I only have to do it once)

If I only have to work one shift, all bets are off because I know I’ll have ample time to rest the next day. I might just stay up until 12 0r 1 and then take an afternoon nap before going in. I have done one night shift without sleeping at all before, and it wasn’t that bad. I wouldn’t do two… The way I look at it is that you’re going to be tired no matter what—it’s the middle of the night. I like to sacrifice a little bit of sleep to make my days more enjoyable; make a good breakfast, workout, spend time with the dogs, etc.

white bedspread beside nightstand with white and copper table lamp
Photo by Burst on

Like I said, everyone’s body needs different amounts of sleep. There’s no right or wrong routine, but hopefully mine can give you some guidance! It definitely takes some getting used to, and some people never do (and that’s okay!). Are you working nights? How’s your sleep routine? Stay tuned for another post about tips for sleeping during the day!