Look up the definition of a night owl in the dictionary and you might ind a picture of me next to it, wide-eyed at 2 am, writing fervently or ensconced in an ambitious craft project. Given my tendency for night-time productivity I thought it would be a piece of cake when I went back to a 3rd shift schedule about a year ago. I’m a nurse by training but had been out of regular clinical practice pushing paper for a few years, so diving back in (to critical care in an ICU) was quite the leap of faith. I found I not only loved the job, I loved the rhythm of the hospital at night. Nights allowed me to focus on my patients and work closely with the hospital doctors while avoiding the chaos of daytime tests and case managers and PT and administration and NOISE. My body, however, was not so sure about this new schedule. I had difficulty juggling my daytime family life with sleeping enough, and I soon found myself yawning at 2 am, mainlining coffee and scarfing candy or snacks to keep me awake. These new habits not only plunked on unwanted pounds, they made me manic at first and then downright sedated, and nobody wants their nurse to be having a sugar crash when THEY’RE crashing. I always want to give my patients the best I have to offer; the clearest head, my full attention, energy to lit and bend and God forbid do CPR. Over the past year I have developed some key habits and eats that help me get through those wee hours smiling and with plenty of energy to spare for the ride home.
My normal shift is from 5 pm to 5:30 pm, this usually means I get home between 6 and 6:30 am depending on how long it takes to give report and if I am charge nurse for the night. Generally I either go to bed as soon as I get home or at least by 8 am. I wake up most days between 2 pm and 3 pm, unless I am not working the following night and then I wake up around 11 am or noon.
- I ALWAYS eat before I go in for my shift. You never know what you’re walking into and getting stuck in a code situation for hours with no fuel on board is asking for trouble. I make sure this first meal has plenty of protein to sustain me, but I also make sure to get some slow release carbs in there too…egg whites and veggies just don’t cut it when you have to run up and down three flights of stairs getting blood products and wheeling your 350 pound man to CT. I also make sure I have some veggies and/or fruit, my body craves those vitamins! A typical pick for me might be plain Greek yogurt with flax meal, honey and fruit and nuts. Eggs or egg white omelets with roasted or steamed veggies and a little cheese or avocado are another favorite, I usually have some whole grain toast or almonds to go with it.
- Pack things for work that you can eat FAST. As much as we would all like to think we’ll get a break, it’s never guaranteed and what you eat needs to give you energy fast and shouldn’t make you feel heavy and ill.
- Drink, drink, drink. Bring a water bottle and fill it at the beginning of your shift and then DRINK it. If your unit feels like the Arctic Circle, as mine often does, bring herbal tea. I always bring a variety; ginger, peppermint, Yogi Tea Positive Energy, Raspberry Leaf, and Chamomile are some favorites.
- Pack more food then you think you will need. This is my general rule otherwise I find myself snacking on the graham crackers and peanut butter that are so appetizingly displayed ( and meant for PATIENTS).
- Don’t eat the food in the break room! It’s rarely healthy, usually there are large quantities of it, and if you’re like me, once you start, you can’t stop. So unless it’s a veggie platter, stay away!!
What To Bring
Below is a selection of my favorite things to bring to work; these foods not only give me energy, they’re delicious and keep me away from the naughty treats.
- Nuts. I choose almonds usually, or cashews…I love the ones that are roasted with cocoa or cinnamon. However, if you are inclined to get a bit nutty (heehee) and eat the whole bag, dole them out in snack bags or small containers and just bring that amount. Or share them, that’s also nice.
- Kale Salad. I use this recipe but feel free to find your own, just make sure the kale is finely shredded and well massaged. This is my favorite snack because it makes me feel like Popeye, like I ate all this green stuff and now I am a super nurse!
- Seaweed. Perfect for night-time noshing because it satisfies those potato chip cravings without giving you jiggly thighs. Just check your teeth before you go check on your patients!
- Birdseye Steamfresh. They didn’t even pay me any money to endorse them, but these bags are perfect for work. Stick them in the microwave for 4 minutes, go check your patients, then come back to a bag of perfectly steamed veggies! I bring a bag almost every night I work.
- Greek yogurt. I am not particular but I do like the Chobani pineapple. Gives me a boost of protein and only takes about a minute to eat.
- Raw veggies with hummus or dip. Carrots with ranch dip or garlic hummus are delicious!
- Veggie chips or pretzels
- Leftovers, especially soups and roasted veggies
- Rice cakes with peanut butter, hummus or cheese
- Cheese sticks
- Fruit smoothies
- Veggie burgers
What are your favorite healthy things to nosh at night?