I am a nurse and shift work is hard on the body. I have 12 hour days and 12 hour night shifts to contend with which makes it hard on circadian rhythms and getting proper sleep. I also work every other week-end. Some workplaces that have shift work have two weeks on one shift and then two weeks on another shift. My work place could have you working nights one week, days another week and a combination of days and nights the third week. It’s an unstable, unhealthy schedule, and I work in mental health!

Since I don’t have any control over my shift work, I must work around it to keep healthy. When I am working nights I take 3 mg of Melatonin before going to bed during the day as your body produces less of it during daytime when it thinks it should be awake. I have dark curtains but can still see some light, so my eye mask is a great object to keep the light out.

Background or “white noise” is also helpful for a great sleep and that’s the reason my air purifier is on when I’m sleeping. If it’s the weekend and the weather is nicer, I also put in ear plugs so I don’t hear the kids on the street playing basketball etc. One important thing I do is turn off the phone ringers so I am not awakened by telemarketers who have day jobs. If someone has to leave an urgent message, I will check them when I get up to use the facilities before returning to bed.

When I come off of night shift, I try to get no more than only four hours of sleep during the day so I can sleep that night. I usually stay up really late on my first day off but at least I’m sleeping at night.

When I have to work day shift, I usually try to get to bed by 11:00 p.m. as I have to get up at 5:15 a.m. I would like to go to bed earlier but am unable to sleep. I try to get everything ready the night before, like my food for my breaks and have already decided what I’m going to wear so I don’t have to worry about it.

I find that reading a good book or watching my favorite television show that I’ve already taped helps relax me just before going to bed. If I still have trouble sleeping, I will put on a paraliminal relaxation C.D. while going to sleep which is helpful.

Eating healthy and regular exercise is difficult as well when working 12 hour day/night shifts. The hospital I’m at is located by the lake so on the nice days, I will often go for a 20 minute walk on my break during the day and on night shifts may go for a 20 minute walk around the lighted parking lot at my 9:00 p.m. break or along the hallways. To help motivate me to walk I’ll ask co-workers if they want to walk with me or walk with while listening to my MP3 player.

As for meals, I usually buy pre-made salads from the grocery store up the street from work and buy my meals during the day shift as the food is good and reasonably priced. The cafeteria is closed during night shift so I usually bring in a salad to work with some already cooked chicken breasts and rice or squash. I also bring in fruit. I also take a daily regiment of vitamins to supplement anything I may be lacking in my diet. Sometimes, my co-workers and I bring in or cook fattening, comfort foods on night shifts or week-end shifts, but its okay in moderation.

Healthy relationships are also important but it’s hard for the shift worker to get together with friends or family who work Monday – Friday with weekends off. I do my best to maintain contact with my family and friends and try to see them on my week ends off.

It’s also difficult finding a life partner who is sympathetic to a shift workers schedule. I’ve heard that shift workers of all kinds – nurses, police, fire fighters and ambulance drivers have a high divorce rate.

My goal is to eventually be self sufficient financially so I can go part-time, and thus choose my shifts and then retire entirely from nursing and work from home. That would be the healthiest for all aspects of my life.

Author's Bio: 

I am a full time mental health nurse who works with forensic mentally ill patients. I am interested in writing and have just completed an e-book course and am currently thinking of subjects for an e-book. I am also taking other web courses to enable me to start my own online business.

To help me in my writing I have participated in a 30 day blogging challenge which ends on May 7th and my website for this is: averyt.wordpress.com

I am interested in politics and voicing my opinion and have had several letters to the editor published over the years in two area newspapers.

My interests include nature, animals, traveling, reading motivational books or listening to them on C.D. and reading the occasional fiction book when I have time. Other interests include swimming, camping, live theatre, movies and getting together with friends and many other things. I also enjoy going to seminars to listen to transformational speakers such as Anthony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Raymond Aaron, Bob Proctor and others.