The graveyard shift isn't ideal, but sometimes you have to get sh*t done.
Here are some awesome tips for staying awake/alert during the night shift, according to Nursing Times:
Take a nap before your night shift begins if possible - a bit of rest will keep energy high.
90 minutes is the ideal nap length, as that's the time it takes for your body to complete a full sleep cycle.
There are different stages of sleep (i.e. light sleep, REM, etc.) and your body needs to reach its deepest state of sleep (REM) to repair itself.
Sleep any less or any more and you won't wake up at the ideal time.
Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle can sometimes do more harm than good, especially if you hit snooze every 5-10 minutes.
Your body is just beginning to actually sleep at the 10-15 minute mark, but waking yourself up over and over again will only make you groggy and tired. It's counterproductive!
Waking up from a 90-minute nap before the night shift is one of the best ways to start your shift feeling refreshed and full of energy, second only to a great night's sleep in the first place.
Eat throughout the shift
Eating small portions throughout your shift is a better option than eating a huge meal right before your 12-hour graveyard sentence.
Rather, pack and eat healthy snacks throughout the shift.
A huge meal upfront will give you a sudden boost in energy followed by a crash, especially towards the end of your shift when you're hungry once again and tired.
Eating small, healthy snacks throughout the shift will keep your energy levels somewhat consistent throughout the night.
Additionally, a change in your sleep pattern can affect your digestive system, making it harder to adequately digest large meals when compared to lighter snacks.
Don't plant yourself in a chair when you have a break - that's a recipe for disaster.
You'll likely fall asleep or at least feel groggy, which will affect the rest of your night.
Plus, I don't think your coworkers will appreciate you dozing off on the job. Walking around, stretching, and even exercising will keep your blood pumping and your mind wide awake.
This one's my favorite considering I'm an extraverted blabbermouth who loves to talk and never shuts up.
Engaging in conversation with coworkers will stop you from falling asleep on the job and will keep your mind sharp.
If they're more experienced than you with the night shift, they might be able to help you out as well with some sound advice to make it through the night.
Watch your caffeine
Drinking coffee or a caffeinated energy drink before the shift will keep you focused, awake, and alert.
But don't drink too much caffeine - if any at all - later in your shift.
Caffeine's half-life is about five hours, though it can take up to ten hours for your body to process all of it.
Caffeine in your system late at night will definitely mess with your sleep.
Even if you can manage to fall asleep with caffeine in your system, your sleep quality will probably suffer as opposed to sleeping without any caffeine in your body.
And if you have another night shift, you'll feel even worse starting the next shift than you did the night before.
When I started working out with my friends we hit the gym all the time (too much) and it was often late at night.
The first time I had pre-workout, it was loaded with caffeine and I got the jitters like crazy. Needless to say, I was pumping iron all night, but that's not the point of the story.
Upon my return home I started feeling a bit sick and wanted to sleep, but I couldn't sleep for hours likely because of the pre-workout caffeine content.
If you've ever been unable to sleep for hours, tossing and turning in your bed, you can probably relate.
But it was worse than that because I was sick and wanted nothing more than to rest up, but couldn't. I've not been a huge fan of pre-workout after that.
What's the bottom line here?
If you're going to have caffeine early during your shift, that's fine - but avoid late caffeine intake at all costs.