How To Successfully Adjust To Third Watch

June 09, 2017

How To Successfully Adjust To Third Watch

No matter what kind of emergency services you work in there is bound to be a time when you will have to adjust to working night shift.  Making it through third watch is difficult but doing it as healthy as possible is important.  Here are some of the best tips to avoid shift work sleep disorder (SWD) and adjust to night shift.

Make Time To Sleep

There is nothing more important to adjusting to night shift to making time to sleep.  A lot of people end up finding things that need to be done and not getting enough sleep.  The ideal amount of sleep is between 7 and 9 hours.

Getting uninterrupted good sleep is also crucial.  Thick curtains and a quiet place will help you do better on third watch.

If you are going to work nightshift soon, start to adjust your sleep schedule slowly so as to best get your body used to the new schedule.

Optimize Caffeine

With so many caffeine options on the market it is easy to guzzle caffeine all night.  It isn’t a bad thing to do so, I do it.  It is even recommended to do so by the National Sleep Foundation.  Only drink 1 to 2 caffeine products per night.  Most importantly space it out and make sure to take your last caffeinated beverage no sooner than 5 hours before bed time.

Do your best to find the best caffeinated beverages out their health wise.  There are many healthy energy options out there such as Zipfizz (that’s one of the drinks I utilize).

Use The Lights

Whenever you can use your lights inside your patrol car or in the station.  The lights help to keep you awake.  The dome light might help but if you park under a street light or near a lit parking lot when working in your car.

Lights help to keep you alert but they also help to trick your mind into thinking it needs to stay alert.  It also helps to establish a new rhythm for your sleep wake cycle as long as your sleep time is kept dark.

On your way home, you should avoid bright light.  As long as it is light out, some officers wear wraparound sunglasses so that they start to feel it is sleep time.  Leave errands until after you have taken the time to sleep.  Ensuring you have as natural of a sleep schedule as possible is important.

Eat The Right Foods

Some foods can make you feel tired, turkey for example, these foods should be avoided at night.  Sugars should also be avoided as will give you a temporary rush then a crash.

Here are some great foods to eat during night shift:

  • Dried Fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Nuts
  • Peanut Butter
  • Bananas
  • Greek Yogurt

Find Ways To Keep Busy

It can be really hard to stay awake when out and about at night if nothing is happening.  Find things to do to keep you awake such as singing or puzzles.  Of course, follow department policy but it is a lot safer if you have things to do.

Don’t Forget To Exercise

When you work night shift, it is easy to put the gym to the side but finding time to exercise is important.  There are too many options out there for exercise for you to skip it.  A bike ride, hiking, run, weight lifting, and more are all options for exercise.

Exercise helps you to maintain a healthy schedule and not just that, helps you to be mentally sound.

Commute Safely

One of the most dangerous parts of your shift tiredness wise is when it comes to getting home.  Driving safely is important.  It might not happen every night but there are bound to be nights when you have trouble staying awake on your drive. 

Here are some ways to stay awake on your ride home:

  • Commute with other people
  • Take public transportation
  • Workout briefly before driving home
  • Get a lane drift warning device
  • Eat an energy filled snack (see above)
  • Energize with music

Keep Your Schedule

We all have days off but sometimes it might feel like there are far less than others.  Whenever possible do not change your schedule.  Stay up for nights and sleep during the day.

Maintaining your night shift schedule helps to keep regular.  If you are constantly changing your schedule, your body can’t adjust and will suffer from it.

Night shift is my favorite shift here at the hospital.  I can’t argue with the commute either.  Living healthy with your night shift is important.  Use these tips to have a successful adjustment to night shift.

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