A long shift can feel even longer when you’re tired. A study from Tel Aviv University in collaboration with UCLA finds that when you’re sleep-deprived, even your brain slows down. Research has shown that sleep deprivation will slow reaction time and now demonstrates your visual perception and memory associations also slow down. These slow or sluggish responses can also change the way you perceive time.
One French cave expert did an experiment in 1962 during which he lived in a cave that was completely isolated from clocks and natural light. His perception of time altered significantly. After leaving the cave he guessed he had lasted 34 days when in actuality he had spent 59 days in the cave. When you are tired, perception of time changes and you’ll find it more difficult to distinguish between two events that happened close together. So, how can you stay energized during a long nursing shift?
Limit Your Caffeine
Double shifts and heavy patient loads may make you feel even more tired. While it’s tempting to drink coffee throughout the shift to help you stay alert, large amounts of caffeine increase your tolerance and make it less effective. When you’re counting how many milligrams of caffeine you are taking each day, don’t forget sources that may not be as obvious, such as Excedrin Migraine capsules, dark chocolate or Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino.
Get Some Fresh Air
Well it might be difficult to take a quick break during your shift, breathing outdoor air for just 10 minutes can help recharge you mentally. You’ll have some time to soak up a little sunlight and get outside of the same hospital environment that’s increasing your exhaustion.
Watch Your Nutrition
When you’re tired and sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to grab for high carbohydrate snacks. Unfortunately, within 2 or 3 hours you’ll experience a glucose crash that may prompt you to grab another high carbohydrate snack. This then becomes a vicious cycle. Instead, you need a protein-rich or high-fat snack to keep you energized through the afternoon. A handful of nuts, 1/2 an avocado or some raw seeds are nutritious, filling and will keep you energized.
Don’t Forget to Stay Hydrated
Just 1% dehydration has an effect on your cognitive abilities. Without enough fluids, you can feel lethargic and have problems concentrating. Focus on your urine output and not on how many ounces of water you’re drinking. You are fully hydrated when your urine is a light yellow, straw color. Since water bottles are usually not allowed in patient care areas, remember to start your shift hydrated, drink plenty during your lunch break and go to the break room for water each time you have to go to the bathroom.
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