7 Ways a Nurse Can Sneak in a Power Nap on Duty
As a registered nurse (RN), it's important to stay alert and focused while on the job. Of course, given how hectic and long nurses' shifts often are, this is easier said than done. Even if you get a good night's sleep, which you should make a top priority, you're liable to find yourself fighting off fatigue on a fairly regular basis. As any experienced RN can tell you, knowing how to sneak in quick naps while on the job can help enormously. Read on to pick up some useful tips for napping effectively while on duty as an RN.
Top Tips for Power Napping as a Registered Nurse
Chances are that you were admonished not to sleep on the job during nursing school. While you shouldn't drift off into a deep, sound sleep while working, there is no harm and actually a lot of good in taking quick, occasional naps. Often called "power naps," these brief respites can give you the energy and oomph that you need to power through even the longest and most interminable shifts. Keep these seven tips in mind to nap effectively during your shift:
- Scout out good napping spots - First, it's important to identify places where you can avoid detection for at least five minutes at a time. Needless to say, you need a place that's a bit off of the beaten path. An empty room, of course, is ideal. However, you're unlikely to get that lucky. Seek out a quiet nook where there's minimal foot traffic and commotion. If all else fails, consider napping in your car during your breaks if that option is available.
- Seek darkness - Even if you work the night shift, you will be hard-pressed to find a dark area while working as a registered nurse. Throughout the night, those fluorescent lights blaze on endlessly. Look for rooms that have dimmable lights so that you can at least turn them down a little when needed. If you find a room where you can turn off the lights, make sure that it has shades in case you need to nap by day. Invest in a decent eye mask to block out aggravating light no matter where you happen to be.
- Don't overdo it - The biggest potential pitfall in napping while on the job as an RN is oversleeping and falling behind on your responsibilities. The last thing that you need is to develop a reputation for avoiding work and sleeping throughout your shift. Avoid this by using alarms or timers on your smartphone or other device. Remember that you can safely take quick power naps but not hours-long naps, so set the timer or alarm for 15 minutes or for however long your break is. Keep the volume loud enough to be heard even above the commotion of a healthcare facility, which can be considerable.
- Give yourself time to recover - As long as you keep your naps relatively brief, you should wake up feeling more or less refreshed as opposed to waking up feeling groggy and out of it. Still, you need to give yourself a few minutes to recover from that nap and to come completely back to your senses. Don't rush right off back onto the floor until you're fully alert and awake. Consider brewing a quick cup of coffee for a gentle jolt back to reality, or step outside for a quick breath of fresh air to revive yourself more completely.
- Bring napping supplies - No, you shouldn't bring an air mattress or anything else too major to support your napping habit. However, there are a few small, simple things that you can keep on hand to more easily take advantage of napping opportunities. Invest in one of those travel pillows that people use on airplanes so that you can get comfortable even if you can't lay down all the way. Get some earplugs to slip in during breaks so that you can more easily drown out background noise and commotion. Get a large, thick eye mask and use it to envelop yourself in darkness when the opportunity arises. With these supplies handy, grabbing quick, restorative naps will be a snap.
- Be careful with caffeine - Like many nurses, you may find yourself guzzling down coffee and other caffeinated beverages to keep yourself alert throughout your shifts. Caffeine comes in handy quite often, to be sure, but it can backfire on you as well. Don't overdo it with the caffeine, or you might get too wired to relax and drift off to sleep for quick power naps. In fact, when you feel the urge for caffeine in the middle of your shift, you might consider sitting down for a quick nap instead.
- Grab a quick nap before or after your shift - Finally, it might be that there are literally no opportunities to nap, even briefly, while on the job. The only way around this is by committing yourself to taking quick naps either before or right after your shifts. Some RNs actually arrive at work a little early and take quick naps in their cars before heading in. That way, they feel alert and rested when stepping in the door. Others leave themselves extra time after work and take quick naps right after their shifts so they don't have to drive home feeling overly tired. Either way, taking a quick nap right before or after work can go a long way toward helping you stay alert and with it throughout your nursing shifts.
While napping is frowned upon in most professions, it's a way of life for shift nurses. The trick is learning how to escape briefly into sleep regardless of where you are. As you gain more experience and follow the tips above, workday power naps will become more and more available to you.