Sleep Your personal and professional well-being depends on getting a good night’s sleep. Health issues such as heart disease and cancer are linked to long working hours and irregular shift work. Night shift work increases the risk of breast cancer by 3.3% every five years, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. The best way to handle irregular work shifts is to create a proper nightly routine to help you have more energy and less stress in the morning. You can make a few lifestyle changes at night to ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and exercising regularly. A good routine can also help reduce stress, which is essential for your health and well-being. Wash Your Uniform If you work as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, it’s likely you will be required to wear a uniform while on the job. Since nurse scrubs may have bodily fluids and bacteria on them after finishing your shift, you want to make sure they are clean and in good condition. Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty scrubs. Turn them inside out to prevent fading. Add ½ cup of Pine-Sol to your regular detergent to disinfect your scrubs. Dry them on a high setting or iron them to kill any remaining germs. Washing them as soon as you come home removes stains and ensures you do not have to rush around in the morning searching for a clean uniform. If you work a lot of long shifts, buy several sets of uniforms so you don’t have to launder your scrubs daily, but you should designate a scrubs-only hamper to prevent cross-contamination with your street clothes. Set Boundaries with Those Living with You Let those who live with you, such as family members and roommates, know your work schedule and the times you plan to sleep. You may ask them not to do loud activities such as vacuuming, playing music, and watching television while you sleep. Set up a time for lights out when you need to sleep so your family can use headphones or keep the volume low when they want to watch movies or listen to music. When you set boundaries, your family or roommates learn to respect your time for better sleep and healthier relationships. Eat Healthy Foods A balanced and consistent diet of protein and plants can regulate blood sugar and support hormones for better sleep. Switch to the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to better heart health and restful sleep. Plan dinner around the Mediterranean diet, which is high in plant-based foods, lean protein, and healthy fats, so it’s something quick and delicious you look forward to making and eating. Consider meal prepping on the weekends to ensure that you always have a nutritious meal ready for when you get home. Reduce your coffee and alcohol intake throughout the day before you sleep. Even if you drink coffee six hours before bed, the caffeine can delay your sleeping time by one hour. Alcohol can lessen the quality of your sleep by interrupting the deep stages of your sleep, leaving you feeling unrested in the morning. Prioritize Exercise This is a great way to relax after a long day at work. It also helps with sleep quality and stress levels so that when bedtime rolls around, you’re ready for sleep. Get plenty of exercise each day, whether you walk around the neighborhood or work out at the gym. If possible, go outside during your breaks at work to walk around the block or a nearby park. Make exercise a priority, but don’t exercise close to your bedtime. If you perform an intensive exercise three hours before going to bed, you could experience disrupted sleep because of an increase in heart rate, adrenaline and body temperature. Try to figure out what time is best to exercise according to your work schedule so you can sleep well at night. Get Your Bag Packed and Ready to Go Packing your bag the night before work reduces the stress of getting ready in the morning; it can also help signal to your brain that it is time to sleep. Build packing your bag with your essential nurse accessories into your nightly routine to make it a habit, and your mind will trigger the release of the sleep hormone melatonin in response. When you leave your home for your next shift, simply grab your bag and head out the door. This will ease your mind about getting everything done for the day so, that when you arrive home, all you have to do is unwind. Plan What You’ll Wear to Work Take some time to plan your outfit for work the next day. This can eliminate the stress and hassle of rifling through your wardrobe in the morning and help signify to your body that it’s time for bed. If you are a healthcare worker, you can wear jogger scrubs and a lightweight patterned scrub jacket to work to help you ease into the routine. For workers with a uniform or dress code, ensure that your clothes are clean, dry, and pressed, and hang them up somewhere in your room, ready for you to wear. Switch Off the Electronics Your body’s circadian rhythms respond to changes in darkness and light. Light, such as morning sunshine, triggers the release of cortisol to wake you up, while darkness sends your brain signals to release melatonin to make you feel sleepy. However, excess electronic use can disrupt the light-sensing cycles, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Electronics produce blue frequency light which has been shown to slow down the production of melatonin. To get a better night’s sleep, switch off your phone, TV, computer, and other electronics at least two hours before bed. Avoid keeping electronics in your bedroom, as the light and sound can disrupt your sleep. Plan a Relaxing Evening Activity Signal to your body that it is time to wind down with a calming evening activity before bed. Relaxing activities can help to distract your mind from anxious or intrusive thoughts. People with anxiety or mood disorders are prone to poor sleep quality and quantity. Reading a book or magazine, listening to quiet music, journaling, or doing some light yoga or stretching can help put you into a deep state of relaxation and prepare your body for sleep. Get Ready for a Productive Workday Establishing a good nighttime routine can make mornings less stressful and help you perform better at work. Having a nightly routine helps ensure you are ready to handle what tomorrow brings.