Getting a good night's sleep is beneficial regardless of what industry you’re in, but for a registered travel nurse, a sleep schedule is even more crucial. The mental and physical demands involved with travel nursing can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion fairly quickly if appropriate sleep habits aren’t exercised regularly.
Let's look at a few tips and tricks that can help you obtain restorative sleep every night so you can continue to serve your patients with quality and attentive care.
Bring Familiar Items With You
Do you already have a sleep routine established at home? Perhaps you use a sound machine, a favorite blanket or pillow, or blackout curtains. Bring those along with you on your next travel assignment to create a familiar sleep environment and get quality rest.
Listen to Music to Calm Your Mind
Listening to music can help relax you and calm your mind. Play some soothing sounds to help you fall asleep faster and get a good night’s rest.
If falling asleep to music isn’t your thing, consider using a sound machine or earplugs to block out any outside noise.
Turn off your phone
It is so tempting to hop into bed and catch up on missed texts, social media, or your favorite show. However, doing so will cause you to get distracted and affect your sleeping time. Put your phone down so that you fall asleep faster and get enough rest.
Many night shift nurses need to constantly remind family and friends to not disturb them during the day to protect their sleep. If you are afraid to turn off your phone completely in case of an emergency, consider putting it on the “do not disturb setting” and only allowing certain numbers to come through.
Sleep deprivation causes an increased risk for health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, metabolic syndromes, obesity, and increased mortality. Schedule yearly physicals to check your blood pressure and make sure lack of sleep isn’t negatively impacting your health.
Prioritize your health and utilize the tips in this article to help you get better quality sleep.
Block Out All Light
Changing living spaces frequently requires nurses to get creative when setting up a sleeping space that is conducive to quality sleep. Having a few tools that you bring along with you to each assignment will help you maintain a consistent sleeping environment.
Night shift nurses should consider using black-out curtains to block any light from coming in during the day. A dark room will make it easier to stay in a deep sleep and ensure you get enough rest. Many nurses prefer to use a sleep mask as well to block out bright light.
The Sleep Foundation suggests turning off electronics at least 2-3 hours before bedtime to reduce exposure to blue light and its melatonin-suppressing effects. If that isn’t possible, the recommendation is to use blue-light-blocking glasses or dim the brightness on your phone.
Keep a Self Care Sleep Routine
Having a sleep routine means that you always do the same thing before you go to sleep. It can be as simple as putting on pajamas, brushing your teeth, and getting into bed.
Or if you prefer to unwind a little more, your routine may look like taking a relaxing hot bath or shower, getting into comfortable pajamas, rubbing essential oils on your feet, and meditating or playing soothing music before you fall into a restful sleep.
Figure out what works best for you, and keep the same routine so that your mind and body know that it is time to relax and you have an easier time falling asleep.
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
It might be tempting to sleep in on the days you aren’t working, but having a regular sleep and wake routine can be essential when everything else in your life changes around every 13 weeks. This can be especially difficult for night shift nurses as it is hard to keep consistent between working and days off.
Travel nursing requires you to readjust to new locations and possibly new time zones, so staying consistent with your sleep schedule is crucial. You’ll also wake up feeling more alert and will be more productive throughout the day.
Travel nursing is a career that involves a high amount of focus and stamina. Nurses tend to drink a lot of coffee and energy drinks to be alert and get through their shifts.
If you really enjoy coffee or feel like it does help you, try to limit caffeine intake to earlier in the morning or earlier in your shift if you work the night shift. Caffeine is a stimulant and can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and put you at risk for poor sleep.
Exercising daily helps to promote better sleeping. Choose an activity you like, even if it's just 30 minutes a day of walking, running, yoga, or dancing.
Limit exercise too close to bedtime if you find that the endorphin rush keeps you awake.
The benefits of healthy sleep for travel nurses include a healthy immune system, the ability to provide excellent patient care, increased job satisfaction, lower stress levels, and the capability to complete daily tasks with attention to detail.
Remember that Health Carousel Travel Nursing is here to help you. Use these resources to find solutions for you to get better sleep.
Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various healthcare companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals.
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