Tips Every Per Diem Nurse Should Know

A career as a per diem nurse can give you a lot of benefits, opportunities, and experiences. While working, a registered nurse can set his or her hours and take a vacation just about any time. Many healthcare institutions are searching for the best per diem nurse agency, so there will be plenty of job opportunities for you to choose if you are working with those agencies.

Knowing your sleep preferences and knowing a few essential sleep tips can help any per diem nurse best adjust to a new nursing shift smoothly. Here are five tips every nurse working in a per diem position should know about getting a good night’s sleep possible.

There’s no doubt that this may be hard for a per diem nurse who has to work several different shifts every week. However, those who try their best to wake up simultaneously will be able to achieve the most efficient rest possible.

Sleeping Schedule

Per diem, nurses learn quickly that working day to day can be tough on one’s sleep schedule. Frequently, per diem nurse positions may require that a person works overnight or a half-day shift. And at other times, a nurse may have to adjust from working a week of overnight changes to working a week of daytime shifts. This type of schedule can make getting a good night’s rest hard to accomplish. 

Sure, that sounds easy. But we’ve all had this happen to us: It’s 11 pm, and you have had a busy day. You are ready to hit the sack, but before nodding off, you flip on the TV. Then you’re sucked into watching a Law & Order rerun. By the time the show’s over, it is midnight, and you are not even tired anymore. If you turn in now, it may take another hour or two before you fall asleep.

Why does this happen? It is because television is stimulating. Watching TV can be enough to keep even tired RNs up late at night.

The solution is not to stop watching TV altogether. Still, it helps to become more familiar with your body’s natural rhythm. When you feel tired, resist the temptation to turn on the TV. If you are a fan of late-night talk shows, invest in a recording device to catch up with the shows the next day.

Do not get into bed when you are not tired.

We have all done it before. And if you are a per diem nurse who has to get up early for a new shift, you may do it even more often than most. Going to bed when you’re not tired can make you feel frustrated and anxious as you try to force yourself to fall asleep. That stress can lead to insomnia. It may sound like a good idea to hit the hay at 9 pm if your new shift starts at 5 am. But if you’re wide awake, it would be better to wait until you’re just a little sleepy. You may not get a perfect night’s rest that night, but your new natural rhythm will develop quickly.

Learn the 90-minute rule

If you are a nurse who has to adjust to new shifts frequently, the 90-minute rule can come in handy. Further research on human sleep patterns has shown that our sleep cycles operate on roughly 90-minute intervals.

Each cycle consists of two periods of REM sleep that are separated by a single non-REM sleep period. A day-to-day nurse can help stay alert by scheduling sleep sessions to 90-minute intervals. That means a three-hour nap could be more effective than a four-hour nap since a three-hour nap will have one complete cycle, while a four-hour nap will interrupt one’s sleep cycle midway through.

Have you ever woken up groggy for your latest per diem nurse position, despite having had 8 hours of sleep? It could be that your cycle was interrupted. This could also be why we sometimes feel refreshed after 6 hours of sleep (4 complete 90-minute cycles) but tired after 7 hours, which will interrupt us in the middle of a period.

Adjusting to a new sleep cycle can be a fun experiment. Still, it’s not recommended that a per diem nurse switches to getting 6 hours of sleep every night right away. It is better to try to cut down incrementally.