This Is How To Survive and Thrive Working A 12-Hour Shift

Your daytime and nighttime habits determine the outcome of how you’ll feel while working 12-hour shifts or overnights.

I worked LONG (and oftentimes) stressful hours for almost two years. It took me a couple of months to get out of sleep deprivation and develop a routine that would help me thrive and feel like I was really living life.

Whether you are in the nursing profession, security, or journalism like me, here are tips on how to crush your days and nights while working long hours.

This post is all about how to survive 12-hour shifts.

1. Have a consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule

Getting enough sleep before starting a 12-hour shift is literally everything when it comes to maintaining good health and overall well-being.

Adequate sleep and trying to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, is key to maintaining optimal performance and cognitive function. Lack of sleep can impair concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities.

To prepare for a long shift, practicing good sleep hygiene is essential. This means limiting your caffeine consumption and making your environment optimal for rest.

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. A good idea is to get a fan too.
  • Invest in comfortable bedding and pillows.
  • Don’t sleep with your phone, disconnect from electronics about an hour before bed, and limit screen time to avoid stimulating your brain. I lived in a studio apartment while working overnights, so my phone was in my “living room” and I had to get up out of bed to turn off my alarm when I woke up.
  • Try reading a book, taking a warm bath, and practicing gentle stretching or meditation to wind down.
  • Wear sunglasses when leaving work if you work the night shift and sleep during the day.
  • Use a natural sleep aide like melatonin when you need it or try the viral “sleepy girl mocktail.”

2. Batch your work shifts

Batching your shifts may not be possible but if you are able to choose the days you work try making your shifts back-to-back. Everyone handles this differently but some people work 12-hour shifts consecutive days, while others break it up during the week. If there’s a way to work fewer shifts or switch shifts with your team members, definitely consider trying to build a schedule that works best for you.

I suggest trying to figure out what’s best for you and determining how you can maximize your time off and rest.

3. Create a day-off routine

I know it’s easy to just want to catch up on your sleep and be lazy on your days off but it’s essential to take care of your physical and mental well-being during your days off.

Yes, sleep a little longer than usual but be sure to work on your hobbies, get your grocery shopping and errands done, get in a lot of physical activity, and catch up and schedule phone calls or in-person outings with your friends and family. Whether it’s painting, hiking, or dancing, having a hobby and working on yourself outside of work not only brings you happiness, but it also fuels your creativity.

Don’t waste your days. Spend them really intentionally.

Related post: Tips For Working Out After The Night Shift: The Best Routine

4. Get your bloodwork done every six months

I was severely deficient in vitamin D and Zinc when I worked the overnight shift.

I learned that regular bloodwork detects many underlying health conditions that may otherwise go unnoticed. From vitamin deficiencies to checking your immune system’s performance, these tests help to provide vital information to help support your proper body mechanics.

My energy levels and mood felt much better when I worked with my functional medicine doctor, got consistent bloodwork, and started making my health my top priority.

5. Eat nutritious balanced meals and snacks

You are putting your body through longer shifts than the average person. You need to fuel it properly.

Head to YouTube or TikTok to find a load of ideas to create a healthy meal plan and have at home or in your break room. My favorite 10-minute meal is to air-fry an already seasoned salmon filet from Costco, boil 10-minute white or brown rice, heat up a can of black beans and make a salad consisting of arugula, feta or goat cheese, pecans, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar with pepper on top.

Related post: Healthy Meal Prep Lunch Ideas For Night Shift Workers

Here’s a few healthy snack options you can pack with you to work:

Nuts: Pack a handful of almonds, cashews, or walnuts. They are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, which help to keep hunger at bay.

Cheese sticks: These are convenient and easy to pack. They provide a good source of calcium and protein, making them a filling and nutritious option.

Yogurt: Opt for low-fat or Greek yogurt, which provides high amounts of protein and calcium. Add some fresh fruits or a sprinkle of granola for added texture and taste.

Granola: Look for low-sugar granola bars made with natural ingredients to enjoy a crunchy and satisfying snack. They often contain oats, nuts, and dried fruits, offering a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.

Protein bars: These bars are packed with essential nutrients and are a great option for quick and sustained energy. Look for bars with minimal added sugars and a good balance of protein and carbohydrates.

Shakes: Protein shakes or smoothies can be made ahead of time and stored in a thermos. Choose ones that contain a blend of fruits, vegetables, protein powder, and a healthy fat source like almond butter or peanut butter.

6. Prioritize your social life outside

Our careers are super important, but it’s equally crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance and nurture our personal life.

Connecting with friends, family, and loved ones is what keeps us grounded and fulfilled. When we neglect our social life, we risk missing out on those meaningful connections that bring joy and support into our lives. This is great for supporting your mental health too.

There were times I wanted to just lounge around and not leave my apartment when I worked the night shift. But I never once regretted getting some fresh air and going to a friend’s birthday party or out to dinner with a college friend. They are memories I remember far more than an episode of a TV show I wanted to watch at the time.

I hope this post gave you ideas on how to take time for rest, eat well, stay hydrated, and engage in activities you enjoy all while working a long night or day shift.

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