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How to Get the Best Sleep as a Travel Nurse

IMG_9758As a travel nurse, you know that fewer things are more important during a shift than staying alert and energized for the sake of your patients and colleagues. Long shifts demanding of our energy can lead to high caffeine consumption and poor eating habits that in turn compromise sleep – making us tired on the job the next day.

Travel nurses who work nontraditional hours, including those on evening and overnight shifts – can have a particularly challenging time falling and staying asleep. In fact, nurses are at high risk of developing Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) caused from working hours that go against the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Don’t let your schedule interfere with your sleeping habits. The better rested you are the better you can be your best on the job. Below are some easy ways to catch some ZZZs as a travel nurse.

Avoid Caffeine. Studies have shown that the average travel nurse consumes three to four cups of coffee during their shift. Regardless if your shift is during the day or night, heavy consumption of caffeine can have seriously negative effects on your sleep. And coffee isn’t the only culprit; drinking caffeinated sodas, teas, and sports drinks can keep you up, too.

According to research in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, people who consume 400 mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) may have difficulty falling asleep up to six hours after consumption. Instead of grabbing a cup of Joe the next time you’re feeling sleepy on the job, try stepping outside for 10-15 minutes for some fresh air, engage in a stimulating conversation with coworkers, or eat a protein-filled snack – like a handful of almonds or veggies and hummus – for energy that lasts. (Of course, having a cup of coffee when you first come onto your shift is fine!)

And Avoid Alcohol. If you’ve just worked a long day or evening shift, it may be tempting to sip a glass of wine or beer to destress after the tough day. Contrary to what many believe, drinking alcohol before bedtime is a bad idea. You may fall asleep quicker after drinking, but your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep will be interrupted, causing you to miss out on deep sleep and be tired throughout the next day.

Herbal teas and warm milk are a better option for tired travel nurses who need to wind down before hitting the hay. Here’s a great article with fabulous nighttime drink options.

Turn Off All Electronic Devices.  When you settle in for a facial or massage, the last thing you want by your side is your smartphone or laptop. The same should apply before bedtime. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re a travel nurse thanks to long shifts in a highly stimulating environment – and especially if you’ve just worked the night shift or are getting off work a few hours before bedtime.

Instead of turning on the television or surfing the web after your shift to calm your mind,  consider unwinding with a good book, take a hot bath, or listen to some relaxing music.

Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary. Your bedroom should be set up and organized with one goal in mind: to help you sleep. Sleep experts encourage keeping electronics out of the bedroom, and keeping it as dark and as quiet as possible at bedtime. In addition, a night stand nearby with some inspirational items like photos of loved ones or a beautiful stone can help calm us to sleep. Check out this article for ideas on how to transform your bedroom into a sanctuary.

In addition to following the tips listed above, make it a habit to go to bed as close to the same time every night (or day) as possible. Remember: maintaining good sleeping habits is as important as maintain a healthy diet. The better sleep you get, the more energy and mental clarity you’ll have to juggle your busy days (and nights) as a travel nurse.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2016.
Posted in Travel Nurse Talk & Tips.
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