How to Be a Night Owl for Work

How to Be a Night Owl for Work

You could sing like the white-winged dove, or you could use these tips.

My best friend in the world, who is a total morning person who can’t stand staying up late past 10:00 (which also makes her opposite me, in some ways) has just discovered that she’ll have to work the night shift during her senior nursing shadowing. She also has her regular classes, plus a husband and a young child, to worry about, so it’s a stressful time for her.

She asked me to share with her some of my tips for being a night owl, but I have to confess that I think I’m naturally this way. I always sleep better in the daytime and write better at night; my most creative times of the day are typically between 4 PM and 3 AM. My mother was a night bird, too, and she used to let me stay up all night with her until I was too tired to go to bed (until I had to start school, that is). I would do crossword puzzles with her and watch Hill Street Blues and Star Trek when I was older, and I never really got into a regular nighttime sleep schedule. I’d do my best during the week and then sleep like a vampire, the way that felt natural to me, during the weekends.

All of that said, there are some strategies that I’ve used over the years when having to pull multiple all-nighters in a row—mainly during my years in college, then subsequently as an editor with a baby. I am completely unable to do these anymore—too old? Too many of them? Heck if I know!—but they might still work for you, and I am sure they’d work well for a single night’s shift followed by a nap or sleep during the day.

  • Start by sleeping during a full day. Take Nyquil if you have to. This will ensure that your body is awake and ready for the night shift. If you absolutely can’t, even a nap should help some.
  • Drink caffeine. Some studies say that coffee is actually good for you, so who knows? In college I would drink multiple pots to remain awake, but I wouldn’t advise that! Try an energy drink, a double shot of espresso (one of those tall, canned cold ones works well), or whatever else you like.
  • Drink your caffeine slowly. I don’t mean to delicately sip like it’s tea time, but try to make it last, because as soon as it runs out, I usually start to crash! You might be different, though, so experiment with what works for you.
  • Do something to wake yourself up if you are bored and finding yourself tired. (Hopefully you will be to active for this to occur, but it might initially, or on occasion.) Blast some music in your headphones during a break. Splash cold water on your face. Floss and brush your teeth. Eat a healthy snack to keep you energized. Anything that typically gets you going in the morning could work here.

For new nurses, there are also these survival tips for you to check out.