Tips for Adjusting Your Sleep Schedule as a Travel Nurse
Sleep is among the most important things you can do for your health, but it’s not always easy to get a full night’s rest as a nurse. Travel nurses can have an even harder time. Aside from working odd hours and off-shift schedules, reinventing your sleep schedule every 13 weeks can take a big toll on your body. Even if you’re an accomplished napper, getting into the swing of a new sleep schedule can be a struggle. But there are proven methods for inducing healthy, restful sleep, even against the odds.
Healthy sleep habits are critical
Sleep is far more complex than simply lying your head on a pillow and drifting off to dreamland. Many factors contribute to the quality and quantity of your sleep. Stress and anxiety are the two most significant — especially for nurses — because they keep your mind racing even when your body is tired.
Daily habits, including your diet and exercise routine, also affect your sleep quality. And the type of sleep you got last night can affect how well you sleep tonight. As a busy travel nurse, it’s sometimes impossible to control all these factors at once, but there are some factors you can control.
Control your sleep quality
Following a few simple tips can help you adjust your circadian rhythm and develop healthy sleep hygiene, even with frequent schedule changes.
- Stick to a schedule. After a long shift, it’s tempting to stay up late for some “me time,” and sleep in the next day, but erratic sleep schedules throw off your circadian rhythm and cause poor sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day as your work schedule permits.
- Create a restful environment. Your sleep environment matters a lot more than you might think. Warm, bright, noisy, or distracting bedrooms can prevent you from falling asleep or wake you up in the middle of the night. Turn on the AC or use a fan to lower the temperature, close the blinds to keep the room dark, and turn on a white noise machine to drown out any noise.
- Eat and drink well. A balanced diet is good for every aspect of your health, including sleep. Be sure you’re not indulging in energy drinks or sugary snacks too close to bedtime. They can keep you awake far longer than you intend!
- Stay active. Exercising during the day can help you sleep more soundly at night. For nurses, being on your feet for an entire shift is an easy way to stay moderately active. On your off days, go for a run or do 30 minutes of yoga.
- Care for your mental health. Stress and anxiety make falling asleep more difficult. While you might not be able to completely alleviate these feelings, find healthy outlets for them, such as meditation, therapy, journaling, or talking to friends and family.
- Establish a bedtime ritual. Setting up a relaxing bedtime ritual makes it easier to fall asleep quickly. Try brewing a cup of decaffeinated tea and writing in your journal or reading a book for 30 minutes after a warm shower. Repeat your routine every night to relax, unwind, and signal your body it’s almost time for bed.
Even with a new schedule and a new place to sleep every 13 weeks, you can take your good sleep habits with you. Putting effort into correcting your sleep routine might be just what you need to settle into your assignment faster, so you can stay healthy and focus on your patients.