Part of my new job’s work schedule includes at least one overnight shift per week (I say at least because we have to sign up for “on call” overnight shifts, as well). So far, I have completed two overnight shifts and I’m proud to say I’ve learned a thing or two about getting through them in the healthiest way possible. I’m not saying that what I do will work for everyone (for example, I’m not required to complete any tasks but staying up during the night), but here is what has worked for me:
1. Sleep in the morning of the overnight. I start preparing the night before the overnight by staying up until between 1 AM and 3 AM. This allows me to sleep in as late as I possibly can the day before my overnight shift.
2. Don’t eat carbs and processed sugars during the day. I keep my diet very clean the day before the overnight.
3. Relax during the day. I don’t expend too much energy that day. I don’t exercise more than going on a walk.
4. Rest in bed. Even if you can’t fall asleep, spend at least an hour before dinner lying in bed with your eyes closed.
5. Shower after dinner. Before leaving for the overnight, I find that a shower helps trick my body into thinking that it’s time to wake up.
6. Keep yourself entertained at night. I always bring a bunch of different entertainment options with me, including a laptop, TV shows, movies, books, and review books (to study). Text people for as late as anyone else stays awake. Make to-do lists.
7. Walk around if you catch yourself falling asleep. I like to take a quick walk around the room, then sit down.
8. Drink a lot of water and eat food that is high in protein and low in carbs. I usually stick to walnuts, plain non-fat Greek yogurt, an apple, and peanut butter. Don’t eat too much, though. Being full will make you sleepier. I only drink coffee watered down with almond milk as a last resort.
9. When you get home, sleep for a maximum of four hours. If you sleep all day after the overnight, then it’s going to be very difficult to fall asleep the following night!
10. Go to bed before midnight and hug your pillow. You made it! Now, it’s time to go on with your life with a regular sleep schedule like the rest of the world.