When you’re on your feet for hours during a demanding travel nursing assignment, getting enough good sleep is crucial. However, sleeping well on the road isn’t always easy, especially when you’re getting used to a new bed AND a new environment. Fortunately, there are several ways to help your body wind down and enjoy the rest you need. You’ll be sawing logs in no time with the following tips.
Limit your caffeine before bedtime
If you run on dry shampoo and Diet Coke, pay attention to what time it is next time you sip. Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine recommends having your last caffeinated drink about four to six hours before you head to bed. Caffeine is a stimulant (which is why it keeps you awake at work) and can make it harder to fall asleep once you’re actually ready to turn in.
Stick to a routine
You may remember reading stories or listening to lullabies at bedtime when you were a kid. Today, you probably don’t follow the same schedule. Still, the National Institute of Aging suggests following a bedtime routine to help you relax. You might take a warm bath, read a book, apply a favorite lotion, or do some light stretches before bed.
Keep it cool
Freezing winter temperatures can make you want to pile on the blankets or crank the thermostat. Resist the urge to turn up the heat; you’ll sleep better if your body is cooler. During the summer it can be trickier to stay cool, especially if you’re in a place with no AC (or it’s not working well). Try drinking ice water right before bed, using cotton sheets, or putting your pillow in the freezer for a little bit to cool down. Check out more tips from the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Dim the lights
Ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? The dark lights and comfortable chairs make it easier to nod off, even if you’re actually interested in the film. Don’t get ready for bed with every single light on in the house or even bright bedroom lamps. Matthew Walker, director of the UC Berkeley Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, explains that light can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep. Keeping your bedroom dark can prove tricky if you work the night shift and sleep during the day, so try blackout curtains. They’re inexpensive, and you can take them down and put them up at each travel nursing assignment. Bonus: blackout curtains muffle sounds as well.
Request a quiet apartment
One advantage of moving as often as travel nurses do is that you get some say over where you live. If you’re a light sleeper or will be working every weekend, living in a building with a lot of college students or young adults probably isn’t the best option. Think about living on the top floor if footsteps or other noises keep you awake, or get an apartment on the first floor so less light floods the room. See if your housing complex has designated quiet hours or rules about parties and guests. If you still can’t get the rest you need, consider politely telling the neighbors about your schedule and asking if they can keep the noise down. Most people understand and will try to accommodate you.
Eat better before bed
You know scarfing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at 10 pm isn’t a good idea for several reasons, but putting the spoon down can also help you sleep better. If you’re hungry late at night and craving something cool and creamy, try a yogurt instead. Calcium has been linked to better sleep, and most yogurt (check the label) has fewer calories and sugar than ice cream. Crackers and cheese are also a good nighttime snack and may help you fall asleep faster.
Sound it out
Whether you need a certain playlist to help you fall asleep or you find it hard to ignore outside noises, listening to music or white noise at bedtime can help sleep come faster. Put soothing classical songs or lullabies on your phone or mp3 player, or download a white noise app to listen to at night. White noise machines made for nurseries work just as well for adults, and many allow you to set timers so nature sounds don’t play all night (unless you want them to).
Good sleep can help you be happier, more effective at work, and more successful as a nurse. Make rest a priority, even when it’s hard to do!
What sleep tips have worked for you? Share them in the comments below.