The more the medical world understands about the importance of sleep, the closer travel nurses should pay attention to their sleep patterns.
Not only are one in three Americans regularly short the seven hours needed each night, but the lack of regular restorative sleep has been linked with an added risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress, reports the CDC.
“A single night of poor sleep can leave you feeling cranky and unmotivated,” adds a recent article from Harvard Health Publishing. “There's even some evidence that insufficient sleep makes you more prone to the common cold if you're exposed to the cold virus.”
Your demanding work as a travel nurse requires that you bring your A-game every day. Further, if you’re not rested, you’re probably not enjoying your off time as much as you could be.
As such, here are some tips for ensuring you get the sleep you need each and every night.
- Get plenty of daytime exercise. One NIH study found that exercise enabled 41 additional minutes of sleep while halving the time taken to fall asleep.
- If you’re encountering ambient noise at night from roommates, neighbors, traffic or other factors, invest in a white noise machine, fan, headphones or earplugs to prevent it from keeping you awake.
- As a travel nurse you may be sleeping in a rented bed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outfit it with a thick mattress paid, ultra-soft sheets and blankets and a pillow that meets your personal preferences.
- Avoid taking daytime naps of longer than 30 minutes if they interfere with your nighttime sleep.
- Avoid consuming caffeine after 4 p.m. each day.
- Studies show being exposed to bright daylight or artificial bright-light devices or bulbs for at least two hours daily can improve your circadian rhythms, and thus your sleep.
- Conversely, other research shows the “blue light” from smartphones and computers can keep you up if you’re exposed two hours or sooner before bedtime. Remedies may include apps or glasses that block the blue light.
- Consider using a supplement to help you sleep each night. Healthline mentions melatonin, gingko biloba, glycine, valerian root, magnesium, L-theanine and lavender, but advises you to check with your doctor first.
- The consumption of alcohol is associated with symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns and may affect your body’s production of the melatonin that helps you sleep.
- Optimize your bedroom’s temperature to your ideal comfort level. Being too warm can interfere with sleep even more than too much noise, reports one study.
- Try taking a relaxing bath or shower 90 minutes before bed.
- Starting with your head, consciously relax each part or muscle of your body in turn. Envision each body part sinking into the mattress as it releases tension.
- If you can’t get the cares of the day out of your head, try mentally repeating one word or phrase to stop those thought patterns. One military trick is to mentally chant, “Don’t think.” You might also try meditation, visualization and/or deep breathing exercises.