Actual quote from a friend: maybe if we got hit by busses we could spend a few weeks in hospital; imagine how much sleep we could get..
I have taken the liberty of spending my time independently researching peer reviewed journals to find the best way to mitigate fatigue and decrease the negative side effects associated with working rotating night shift rosters,
The evidence supporting the premise of sleep deprivation correlating to poorer health outcomes was pretty damning, the evidence I found also validated why I feel so ill, nauseated and mentally disassociated after a night shift..
as a brief example:
“Relative to daytime workers, shift workers had 2.35, 1.23, and 1.17 greater odds of insomnia, depression, and suicidal ideation”
Night shift is a compulsory part of our duties as health care workers, so how can we still work them, giving care to our patients whilst also taking care of our own mental and physical health?
This is what I found:
1. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep in any 24 hour period
- 2. optimal sleeping temperate is 18 degrees, our core temperature will naturally drop 1-2 degrees of an evening in preparation for sleep so having a cool room during the day can greatly assist with falling asleep.
- 3. minimise sunlight exposure in the morning of your night shift (avoid direct sunlight by wearing long sleeves / sunglasses) to increase melatonin secretion
- 4. initiate sleep post night shift AS SOON AS practically possible, again, minimise sunlight exposure enroute home to protect melatonin secretion
5.if you have time to nap on night shift, ensure they are no longer than 40 minutes to mitigate sleep inertia on waking
- caffeine consumption at the rate of 0.3mg/kg/h is recommended for fatigue mitigation on night shift
So in practice, all of these little teachings turn into a *routine that looks a little something like this:
0800 - Sleep in until 0800 instead of 0600, shower, breakfast, avoid caffeine, direct sunlight exposure and blue light from electronic devices [ 2 hours ]
0900 - 1200 - Sleep: room 18 degrees, phone on silent to limit distractions [ 3 hours ]
1200-1300 - Lunch, speak to loved ones, drink water
13-30- 1530 - Sleep: 18 degrees, phone on silent to limit distractions [ 2 hours ]
15:30 - 1730 - Go outside into direct sunlight for a low intensity walk to decrease melatonin secretion and increase serotonin, have first caffeinated beverage of the day and get ready for work
*Rationale: a minimum 7 hours of sleep is needed prior to night shift for adequate performance at work.
I wish I was taught how to attack night shifts whilst I was studying at university, the body of research in the area is so wide. I think it is absolutely imperative that we prioritise our own mental and physical health before we attempt to stand upright and give our compassion and skills to patients in need,
You can’t serve from an empty cup.
About the Author:
Georgia is a graduate paramedic that enjoys continual learning and exploring health and well-being during her time off.
Connect with her on Instagram: @lifeofaparamedic