How to Ask For Support While on Nightshift

Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon

 

Working at night can be hard for many reasons. It disrupts our body’s natural rhythm, affects our mental health, adds to health struggles, and can lead to fatigue or restlessness. People who work the night shift report increases in anxiety, nervousness, and irritability as a consequence of the time they work. 

When we disrupt our natural rhythms, it disrupts our ability to live in a natural way. As I was looking into this topic, there was so much evidence of how hard the night shift is on our bodies and brains. Even with all this evidence of how hard it is on us working at night, the night shift for nurses is not something that will go away. For many reasons, people will work the night shift, so this reality then leads me to my main question. How can we help support those nurses who work the night shift and decrease some of the risks they face? 

Francine discussed how to get comfortable asking for help in her last blog, and this is a big part of getting support. First, we start with asking ourselves: How am I struggling with the night shift? What areas do I need to advocate for myself in? When you are able to figure out where you are struggling, you can learn when you can ask for support from others. Whether you are just starting out working the night shift, have worked it for years, or are on a schedule where you work nights every so often, there are areas where we can ask for support! 

Asking for support in the home can look like: setting up boundaries for a quiet time during the day, creating routines on when you will get the grocery shopping done and who will do it, and creating a space that is comfortable to sleep in, or making sure the space where you sleep can be dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature. You can also ask for help in ways that keep you accountable, such as making sure you are not drinking too much caffeine, getting off electronics before you go to bed, and being there to check in with you when you can’t seem to manage. 

Reaching out to professionals for support is also something to keep in mind when working the night shift. With all the effects that night shifts have on our health, making appointments to monitor our health and wellness is an important place to ask for help. When we have a professional that is taking on some of the responsibility to monitor our symptoms, it can relieve some of the responsibilities on our shoulders. Whether that is scheduling weekly or bi-weekly mental health sessions, checking in with our primary care doctor about our symptoms, or scheduling other appointments as needed, any of these could make a big difference in how we are supporting our own needs and overall symptoms. While making appointments and paying for the care might not be possible all the time, it is an important aspect to prioritize when thinking of our overall health. 

As nurses, you are faced with difficulties in many aspects of your job that affect your overall life, and you are faced with how to cope with it. How can you make a community that is supportive where we can ask for help with whatever we need? 

 

Sources Used and if you are interested in reading more about the effects of the night shift:  

https://getsling.com/blog/effects-of-working-night-shifts/ 

https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-Are-the-Health-Effects-of-Working-Night-Shifts.aspx

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/shift-work-can-harm-sleep-and-health-what-helps-202302282896

 

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