Today in the chart

Tools for Successfully Managing Night Shift with Kids

If you are considering going to nights, but wonder if it’s possible, let this post put you at ease.

I recently switched to the night shift, which has worked great for my family. I know a lot of mothers and fathers who choose to work the night shift because it gives them more time with their children. If you are considering going to nights, but wonder if it’s possible, let this post put you at ease.

I am a Registered Nurse who works 12-hour shifts. A full-time position only requires you to work three days, so switching to nights on a 12-hour shift will be very manageable. I would work two days in a row, maximum. Some people like to work their 3 in a row, but I think this is too taxing mentally and physically. The recovery time is not worth it. But see what works for you.

Before Your Night Shift

I suggest you take a nap during the day to prepare for the shift. If your kids are in school, take a nap before picking them up. If they are little, take a nap with them! You want to have some hours of rest before you go to work. I usually have a cup of coffee on my way into work at 7 pm and another cup around 1 am. Drink all your coffee in the first half of your shift to maintain a sleep balance, then water! Stay away from energy drinks! The crash on the other side of the high will make your ride home more dangerous.

During Your Night Shift

While on shift, you need to stay awake. There will be a slower pace on the night shift. If you have downtime, use it! Read that book, research a topic, and write that paper. Don’t just scroll through the mind-numbing feeds of social media. Use your brain! Get moving if you need a pick-me-up in the middle of the night. Take the stairs up and down and up and down. This will keep you warm and awake. I will also go to the break room to do 25 squats. Do anything that will keep you moving because it will keep you awake.

What to Eat & Drink on Night Shift

Your metabolism will slow when you stay up all night. It’s just the science of the body. So don’t overeat overnight. Say no to the sweets left in the break room. Pack veggies, fruits, and nuts to eat throughout the night. If I work days in a row, I eat a little breakfast when I get home, a snack when I wake up, and a big meal right before I leave for work. That satisfies my caloric need without overdoing it.

The coffee I drink for work is Eight O’Clock, Infusion Alert HI-CAFFEINE. It’s an Arabica bean blend with guarana with a medium flavor that isn’t too strong. But, wow, it keeps you awake, alert, and oriented x 4! (nursing joke). I stopped drinking Cuban espresso (colada) after discovering this stuff.

The Drive Home From Night Shift

When you get off, you will be tired. Even more tired than when you get off a day shift, especially at the beginning. As you drive home, try these three tips for staying awake.

  • Play music you love, really loud, and sing along.
  • Listen to a comedian; if you are laughing, you are more alert.
  • Drink water throughout your drive.
  • If you feel sleepy, try lifting your left foot off the floorboards and balancing it in the air. My dad taught me this trick, and it helps!
  • If you feel like you are falling asleep, pull over. Take a power nap or call an Uber. Know your limits and listen to your body. You are better off safe than sorry.

When You Get Home After Night Shift

You may have to take the kids to school or wait for a sitter when you get home. Do not drink coffee at this time or get on your phone. If you need to spend time on your phone, try using those “no blue light” glasses to keep from the blue light disrupting your sleep. I try to stay off my phone completely. I have a small breakfast, take my daughter to school, and the sitter comes at 9 am to watch my son. After I shower, I draw all the curtains, put on an eye mask, insert earplugs, and breathe. I do an old breathing exercise to help me fall asleep quickly. It’s called the 4-7-8 trick, and it goes like this:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth.
  • Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while you mentally count to four.
  • Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth while you mentally count to eight.
  • Inhale and repeat three more times.

It works every time. Now sleep for as long as you can. I usually sleep until I pick up Daisy from school at 1 pm. If I am working that night, I will “take it easy” and stay home, but if I am off that night, I will resume my day as usual and brew a pot of coffee after I pick up my daughter. This is a recovery day. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t get a chance to clean the house or fold laundry. Rest is important. On a recovery day, I will stay awake until my usual bedtime, around 10:30 pm.

This schedule works well for me: I send one child to school, and one stays home. You need a caretaker if you have younger kids, babies, or toddlers. You cannot just “stay awake” for days at a time. I thought I could do it alone and stay up, but that was a horrible idea. I gained weight and lost my patience completely, ruining the quality of my life and the lives of my family. If you have family, ask for help. I hired a wonderful young woman from She also doubles as our date night babysitter!

Sleep Health for Night Shift Tips

Sleep health is essential to maintain optimum health. Treat your new daytime bedtime as something sacred. Use whatever tools necessary to get effective sleep. Below are some suggestions to help you out.

Within the first few weeks, you will notice whether the night shift is right for you and your family. I enjoy it because I see my kids more. However, everyone needs help when they are transitioning to a night shifter. Be sure to utilize your resources. Instacart is a grocery shopping app that shops for you and delivers your groceries. Postmates is another app that will shop at any store or restaurant and deliver it to your door.

Nurse Meg
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