Surviving Overnight Shifts

During this rotation, I had the absolute pleasure of doing a week of overnight shifts from 5pm-7am. I did this for a mere four days and I felt (/ still feel as I type this almost 2 weeks later) absolutely wiped. But I picked up some tips and tricks along the way, and received some AMAZING advice from you guys to make it somewhat more tolerable. All I can say is I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do this kind of work on a regular basis. You are all heroes. 

What I did:

  • The first night before going in I woke up super early (think 4:30am early), did an early morning workout, did some active cleaning around my apartment, and then slept from 12-3 before going in at 5pm.
  • I drank a cup of coffee before going in, and then a mug of homemade bone broth to-go to sip on during the first part of my shift. I also took a multi-complex B vitamin and probiotic for natural energy and because I knew my gut / immune system would take a serious hit with this new wonky schedule.
  • When I got home around 8am, I popped some melatonin, took a long, hot shower and climbed into bed. I don’t have blackout shades so using my regular shades, a sleep mask, my air purifier (essentially white noise sound as a fan), I was able to fall into a slumber and sleep for 4-5 hours. I then got up, ate a meal, and tried to exercise and go for a walk. I felt really, really weak, so gentle workouts, stretching, and long walks were key. I also watched a lot of the Great British Baking Show. I didn’t do any studying during the days and focused entirely on resting.
  • During the shift, I stayed super hydrated and drank as much as I could. I bought those NUUN tabs from Whole Foods before because having something a little fruity was helpful. I didn’t drink any coffee, as if there was an opportunity for down time / to use the on call room I didn’t want to feel wired. I also felt sick when I would drink coffee on an empty stomach.
  • I found I was a strange combination of starving yet not very hungry overnight. I stuck to simple / bland things like oats, chickpea pasta with butter and broccoli, and bananas. Highly, highly suggest bringing your own meals, as there was a plethora of cookies, cake, pizza, buffalo tenders that look really, really tempting come 2:30am. After eating them, however, I felt immediately sick.
  • I also took lots of walks during downtime when I felt like I was hitting a wall and that was hugely helpful. I was also INCREDIBLY lucky to have my wonderful classmate with me, and we kept each other awake by just walking or talking or studying or giggling, etc.
  • watch the sunrise!! one definite perk of being awake that early in the morning 
  • Practice gratitude and repeat your why’s!! it’s all worth it in the end, even when the going and the sleep cycle gets rough!

What to pack:

  • Lots of crunchy snacks – apples, nuts, popcorn, carrots, celery were my go-tos
  • Gum (I really just needed SOMETHING to chew on for when I got super tired)
  • An under eye soother: I used my cocokind matcha stick and would keep it refrigerated in the staff fridge and run to the bathroom and put it under my eyes as a quick soother
  • A toothbrush!!!! The hot garbage breath was horrifying at 4am
  • Face wash – I used this during times of true desperation when I needed to wake up and was exhausted
  • Meals: I tended to eat pretty light because my stomach wasn’t accustomed to eating huge meals. Things like chickpea pasta with butter and broccoli, quinoa and veggies, oats, and bananas.

Tips from you guys!!!! You all are truly the best and I wouldn’t have survived it without your recommendations!

The day before:

  • Don’t eat a big meal during. Start with a coffee but don’t have any more and lots of water. Just keep busy and take a lap if you need it!
  • I work 7pm-7am and on the first day I work I just wake up around 7am, work out, take a warm shower and get a good nap in. The first night is the hardest, but I find at least getting a good nights sleep the night before is helpful if you aren’t good at napping. Some of my coworkers stay up late the night begore and try to sleep in as much as they can.
  • I would wake up at a “normal” time, work out/run errands and then nap from 12-2/3. I always struggled flipping my schedule and sleeping. Everyone has their own advice, but just figure out what works for you. I had a hard time eating during night shift and would get really sick, but I tended to eat normal during the day and have light snacks overnight (banana, some crackers, maybe a bar). Hope this helps!
  • One thing I found that really helped me was treating afternoons that I was working like my morning, so eating breakfast food when you wake up and kind of tricking your body that is is morning. I also would be sure togo outside and go on a run or just do something before I went in to work so that I could see the daylight at least a little bit before I was awake all night.
  • I try to sleep for a good 4 hours before night shifts and wake up, have breakfast, coffee. Pretend like it’s morning. Keep the same routine.
  • Wake up early, workout, shower, take Benedryl, black out curtains, sleep until 4pm+
  • Eye mask / blackout shades, no caffeine that morning. I try to get up and out in the sun before I leave otherwise I feel like. Vampire. Also at work, try to cut off water at like 4-5am other wise you’ll be up all day peeing.
  • I always try to wake up early in the morning and have a productive AM, have a good lunch, and then lay down for 3+ hours before going in whether I actually fall asleep or not (no tv, no books, no phone). Then a lot of coffee on the first night, after that you’ll be fine.
  • Stay up really late (4-5am) 2-3 nights before and then sleep until 1-3pm
  • Wake up early and then take a melatonin or two around 9-10am. Use blackout curtains and an eye mask and then try to fall asleep
  • B vitamins are my lifesaver when I work the night shift. It’s a natural energy boost without the crash. I take some on m yway in to work and then about 2/3 of the way through my 12 hours shift. I also limite my coffee intake to one cup at the beginning of my shift because otherwiseI feel super sick to my stomach and never really feel away. Pro and prebiotics are also a must. I always get super gassy working nights. Very weird I know, but keeping my guys happy helps tremendously. And for lseeping during the day, take some melatonin before crawling in bed. I never have a hard time falling asleep, it’s the staying asleep part. Also an eye mask and cold, dark room with white noise of some sort should help.


  • Don’t eat a big meal during – it will make you feel sleepy!
  • Make sure to eat lots of snacks. I tend to be so so hungry and tired when I finish so come up with healthy simple meals you can eat at “breakfast time”
  • Bright snacks, drink a ton of water and only coffee at the start of the night and walk around whenever you’re not doing something work related – do not sit down and get cozy! Just go into the first night really tired and you’ll sleep well when you’re done. It will even out, trying to flip your schedule before you need to just wasted another day of dayling.
  • Limit sugar, drink loads of water during the shift and a matcha latte
  • Workout right after you get off and meal prep everything before and headstands at 4-5am because it gets the blood flowing when you want to quit
  • Snacking and coffee. Getting my body in a routine where I’d eat when I woke up at 12, snack before work, and have “dinner”/lunch at 10, then snack before getting off. I’d workout before if I could and keep the same schedule on days off.
  • Loads of lemon water, a matcha latte before 12 and high protein snacks. The first one sucks but the rest are way easier!
  • Drink lots of water and bring something for the possibility of a headache.
  • Water > coffee
  • Bring healthy snacks, sleep when you can, make sure you do things to keep your body “regular” aka pooping


  • Try 3mg of melatonin when you get home and my goal is to sleep from 8-2 then I usually try to go on a walk and listen to a podcast before I eat and then go in to slowly wake myseful up. You will get super cranky and it makes you really sensitive to bright light
  • Take melatonin to help you when you want to sleep during the day
  • I’d work out in the morning after and then shower and go right to sleep. Blackout curtains are your bff!
  • Major light darkening techniques. Shades, blinds, essential oils on pillows, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and stretching. Magnesium can help too!
  • Melatonin to help shift the circadian rhythm, bright light exposure, switch eating times of meals or have more snacks / light meals all day, tons of water – basically most jet lag treatments! And lots of layers because your temp will fluctuate a lot overnight.
  • To shift back into a normal schedule, get off work in the morning and stay up! Head to the gym and stay up until bedtime. It is tough, but worth it!

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