Day Shift Vs Night Shift Nurse: Pros and Cons of Each

  • By: Olivia Herlihy RN
  • Date: February 25, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

What are the pros and cons of being a day shift vs night shift nurse? If you have been offered a role that’s either predominantly days or predominantly nights, this post weighs up the pros and cons of each and helps you decide which shift pattern is best for you.

Day Shift Nurse Vs Night Shift Nurse

The Benefits of Working Mostly Day Shifts

So, you’re a day shift nurse. You get to sleep in and live the day-to-day life of any other person. Or do you? The day shift is not all it’s cracked up to be for many nurses because they are required to work long hours with minimal breaks and no time off. This can have a negative effect on their home life as well as their family obligations outside of work.

The benefits of being a day shift nurse include the ability to have a social life outside of work (although this may be difficult depending on where you live) and better communication with family.

Some of the main benefits of mostly working day shifts include:

  • You are in an every day routine of working, so you can enjoy your days off. Since you have a normal schedule your work doesn’t interfere with your personal life like night shifts do.
  • You have more interaction with others since there are more people around during the day
  • Day shift nurses can spend more time with their family on days off because they won’t need to worry about adjusting to the day

The Benefits of Working Mostly Night Shifts

Working as a night shift nurse is not for everyone, but it does have its benefits. If you’re considering becoming a night shift nurse, here are some reasons why that might be a good idea.

  • You get time off during the day for your personal needs as well as having more energy at night because you are wide awake whilst everyone else is sleeping.
  • Night shift nurses get paid a slightly higher rate for working unsociable hours. It’s a great way to save some extra money.
  • Depending on where you work the night shift can be quieter if the patients are sleeping, meaning you get time to catch up on paperwork and nursing notes.
  • If you are not a morning person you may prefer to work nights as you don’t have to get up in the early morning.

The Dark Side of Night Shifts

Before choosing a job that includes mostly night shifts you should be aware that working regular nights is not good for your health. Research has shown that night shift workers are at greater risk of obesity and diabetes. Night owls may prefer working through the night and spend more time sleeping during the day, but this may be at the detriment of their health in the long term.

Working night shifts regularly over a long period of time has been associated with a higher risk of developing asthma. One study showed that permanent night shift workers had a higher likelihood of developing moderate to severe asthma compared to day shift nurses. This was made worse in cases where nurses worked irregular shifts alternating between night and day. (source)

Working regular nights is also connected to other health issues such as developing a sleep disorder, increased weight gain and risk of negative impact to psychological health.

Despite the greater risk of developing health problems, many nurses have to work nights as part of their role. One of the main reasons some nurses choose to work more night shifts that days is because they are usually paid at a much higher hourly rate.

If you are working mostly night shifts I have included below some survival tips on how healthcare workers can stay as healthy as possible despite the unique challenges of their shifts.

Survival Tips for Working the Night Shift

Tips for Nurses to Get Better Sleep

Whether you’re a day shift or night shift nurse, in order to provide the best patient care you need to have a good sleep schedule. This is even more important for travel nurses who might be adjusting to different time zones as well as different sleep patterns!

If you’re looking for ways to get better sleep, here are a few suggestions that might be helpful.

  • Limit how much caffeine you drink towards the end of your shift. Caffeine before bedtime has been shown to disrupt the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when you get home as it’s a diuretic which means it will make you more thirsty and cause you to wake up in the middle to go to the bathroom.
  • One thing that could help you get better sleep is taking a bubble bath before going to bed as this can help you de-stress and release tension. A hot shower may also work if a bath isn’t possible.
  • If stress is a major issue, try to match your breathing with your heartbeat. It will be easier to do if you’re lying down. This can help your body relax and focus on getting to sleep quicker.
  • Install blackout curtains in your bedroom. If bright daylight is coming through the window this can affect your body’s normal circadian rhythms. By creating a dark environment your body thinks it’s night time and releases hormones that send you to sleep.

Tips for What to Eat at Work

Drinking too much coffee at night can make it even more difficult for you to sleep during the day. New nurses often make the mistake of increasing their caffeine intake to help them stay awake, especially if they are working consecutive night shifts. This can make it more difficult to sleep during the day and lead to greater sleep deprivation.

Instead of drinking coffee or tea try to opt for a healthy snack. Good options are high in protein and will help you sustain your energy levels.

Some good snacks to eat on a shift include:

  • granola bars
  • nuts
  • peanut butter and banana sandwiches

If you are working a night shift you should also aim to eat the meals you work normally eat during the day. This will help you to maintain a healthy weight. Since your metabolism slows down at night time you should avoid eating a heavy meal in the middle of the night. It is better to eat a proper dinner before your night shift and then eat light healthy snacks throughout the night. At the end of your shift have a light bowl or cereal, or toast before going to bed.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

This seems obvious but since nurses are on their feet all day (or night) it’s really important you are wearing the right shoes for your shift. If you are wearing shoes that don’t provide the right support you could be left in pain and this will effect your sleep and mental health.

Night nurses should opt for soft shoes that are suitable for working 12-hour shifts. Although night work may be a slower pace that day time shifts, a typical night shift can still involve being on your feet for long periods of time.

This Post was All About Day Shift Vs Night Shift Nurse

Thank you for reading my post about the day shift vs night shift nurse. If you are a night shifter and you have any further tips for surviving the night shift then please leave me a comment below. Nurses face working a variety of different shifts throughout their careers including the evening shift, graveyard shift, and typical day shift. There are pros and cons of each shift and what’s right for you will depend on your own circumstances such as whether you have small kids, or just prefer working throughout the night.