Tips for Working Night Shift


Ugh. Hearing the word night shift alone makes me cringe. Anyone else despise night shift as much as me? A lot of you have written to me asking how I handle working night shift as a nurse in terms of eating and working out. Well, the answer is, I DON’T. Ha, kidding. Well, kind of. It is a real struggle for me. Luckily, I rarely work nights anymore however I know how hard it can be to stay on track in terms of eating healthy and keeping up with your workouts. However, it is possible! So, here’s the run down of how I go about working them.

Okay, let’s talk about food first. When I work nights, I am always tempted to eat everything in site. In my mind if I keep eating then I will stay awake? I think this is just a cruel trick your mind plays on you–I don’t think it actually helps. Okay, but on a serious note! Since I count macros, I stick to the same macros throughout nightshift as I do during days (even if you don’t count macros…keep reading). HOWEVER! The first night shift can be tricky since you are awake during the day prior to going in. So my approach is this. I sleep in as late as I can during the day (maybe until 10am? I am horrible at sleeping in)! Wake up, go do a fasted workout, then I come home and eat. By this time it’s around lunch time so I’ll eat, and then if I have errands to run, laundry to do, emails to answer…this is when I do all that. Then, around 2pm I will try to go back to sleep until I have to wake up for work. This way, I have gotten in my workout for the day, gotten some things done on my to-do list, and gotten a few more hours of sleep before going into work. This also guarantees that I’m not just eating all day before being awake all night and eating my normal amount. LOL.

After this first day/night is out of the way, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. Well, as smooth as it can be considering its night shift. The rest of the shifts, I am sleeping through the entire day so I then just eat my normal macros during the nights. I will say however, if you count macros, don’t count macros, it doesn’t matter! The best way to approach it (IMO) is to just pack the snacks/food that you’re going to eat. If you pack healthy, and fulfilling options you won’t be as likely to get off track. Also, allow yourself some slack! Your schedule gets f*cked up when you work nights, and it sucks. So if you are genuinely hungry, eat. I used to be like, well I already ate “X” amount during the day so I really shouldn’t be eating more. But working nights is not normal for your body, so you have to do what you can to cope/make it work for you! Just don’t go crazy =)

Okay, so in terms of working out. I honestly prefer to workout right when I get off of work. I like doing this because it’s nice to just get it over with and it just makes things easier. For example, if I workout right when I get home then as soon as it’s done I can shower, eat, and sleep–I don’t have to worry about waking up before work that night with enough time to workout prior to going back in. Plus, if I workout after I sleep then that requires two showers! Like, when I first get off of work, before I get into bed I NEED to shower (I’m not getting into bed with god knows what germs are on me from work). And so if I do this, then I will have to shower again after I wake up and workout later in the day. You know? So yeah, it just makes things a lot easier to workout right when I get home. Of course there are days that I’m just too exhausted and that just cant happen. BUT, that is the ideal situation.

Also, I realize that not everyone works their night shifts in a row, but I still think that a lot of these tips apply! If I work nights I like working them back to back because it keeps my routine more “normal.” However, if I just work one night, I still stick to my same eating approach but I usually workout after I sleep. Since I’m not rushed to go back in that following night, I don’t mind getting some rest and then working out later.

For those of you that work nights, was this helpful? Or what are some approaches you guys have? xx


12 thoughts on “Tips for Working Night Shift

    1. hmmm, I would suggest black out curtains and/or an eye mask! I also just force myself to sleep…like, I will usually wake up around noon and feel wide awake but I just force myself to stay in bed until I fall back asleep

      1. I agree with your suggestion for blackout curtains! They have been extremely helpful for me when I need to sleep during the day. Personally, I have trouble wearing an eye mask because of my discomfort but I always wear ear plugs to block out any sounds from the day. Simply laying back down and closing your eyes rather than getting up and doing housework is a great tip too!

  1. Seriously struggling! I’ve been a night shift nurse for 3.5 years now and have lost about 10lbs over those years. (I am 5’6.5 and 108lbs currently). I work a full time and a per diem job, always 12 hr shifts. so I’m working 4-5 nights a week every week. So the good thing is my schedule stays pretty consistent but I am still struggling with eating enough. I always have “breakfast” post working. Usually something small pre gym and a full breakfast post gym which is around 10am.. I then sleep, basically until I have to go back. Once I get to work I’m always busy until about 11/12 o’clock at night, which causes me to go about 12 hours without eating and then I eat one meal and a small snack around 3am. I’ve been starting to try to wake up pre work with enough time to sneak a small meal in but I just overall am having a hard time because I’m either too tired or not hungry when I first wake up. Still searching for what’s going to work for me, trying to find a good tasting protein drink to maybe help me hit my protein macros. (Not a huge fan of protein drink taste lol) also going to try and pack my meals in the morning after the gym for my next shift, it’s just hard to know what you’ll be in the mood for. Anyway, I’m new to the macro counting but watching your instagram videos has been really inspiring and helpful. So thank you. Hoping I can find something that works and gain back some weight in muscle. Night shift is making me frail and forever tired. But I don’t want to go to days! Love my night shift crew Lol

  2. Yeah, I totally understand that you don’t feel like eating when you first wake up…I usually don’t either, BUT I force myself to eat a meal because I cant go that long without eating. Another suggestion is you can pack convenient snacks with you that are quick and easy to eat so you can eat them before you have lunch at 12am. Maybe that will help! Otherwise seems like you have the night part down!!

  3. Hey Claire, this post was really helpful! I recently started on nights and so far I am doing ok balancing everything. I just seem to be getting a little less daytime sleep that I would at night. Did it seem to get easier for you as time went on, or did it become more difficult to balance everything? I don’t intend on staying on night shift by any means. I am totally a day shifter, I am only doing this while the hospital is short. I’m just nervous that I’m going to hit this exhaustion wall in about a week or two making it difficult to continue my eating and workout habits

    1. Hey Carlie! So glad this post was helpful 🙂 So, that’s kind of hard for me to answer because I never did straight nights. I would have like a week of nights and then switch back to days for 3 weeks…so I never really got into a routine with them. I personally think it would have reached a point where it would have been difficult to balance everything but that’s why I never did many night shifts–cos I knew I wouldn’t be able to adjust. But there are a lot of people who love night shift and do it their hole life and other nurses I know who do it for about 2 years and then say that they can’t adapt to that night schedule anymore and need to just do days. I hope that this helps?! Sorry I cant answer you better!

      1. Ok gotcha. No problem! I just got put on night shift and my body is not agreeing with it, so I was just wondering what it was like for you. I’m working on going back to days so I’m not too worried about getting on a night shift schedule lol. Thanks again! 🙂

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