Is Working Night Shift Hard? | Day Shift vs Night Shift - Nurse Money Talk (2022)

There are many shift options to choose from in the nursing profession, from 8-hour day shifts to 12-hour night shifts.

Each shift has its pros and cons, but there's no question that the night shift brings with it a unique set of challenges.

While challenging, it does have significant benefits.

Is working night shift hard? Yes, many nurses, especially ones that are new to the field, will find working night shift difficult. Although it can be challenging, it also has its benefits. There are a lot of ways to make working night shift easier, too.

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Is working night shift hard?

Whether you've chosen to work night shift or it was the only option given to you, there are plenty of ways to make the most of this unique opportunity.

The most difficult task is getting your body to adjust to the unusual sleep pattern.

Once you have that down, you might find that you actually prefer the night shift.

Why is night shift hard?

Night shift is hard because it goes against everything our body is taught to do from a young age- stay awake during the day and sleep at night.

In addition to altering your natural sleep pattern, night shift can also wreak havoc on other areas of the body.

A study out of The University of Colorado at Boulder linked night shift with changing over 100 proteins in the blood, including ones that have a direct impact on blood sugar and metabolism (source).

That may be why night shift workers are more likely to be overweight and may develop debilitating diseases like diabetes and cancer.

The night shift can also have a significant impact on your personal life, including the amount of time you spend with your family and friends.

While you're sleeping during the day, your loved ones are out living their lives.

Conversely, while you're working at night, your loved ones are peacefully sleeping.

This opposite schedule can make it difficult to spend time together each day, but there are ways to make the time you do spend together more enjoyable and more impactful.

You might find that you appreciate the time you spend together more because you know how limited that time is.

What are the pros and cons of working night shift?

As with any shift, there are advantages and disadvantages to working night shift.

(Video) Day Shift vs Night Shift | Is Night Shift Harder than Day Shift?

Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is up to your personal needs and preferences.

These are just some of the pros and cons of working night shift.

Pros of Working Night Shift:

1. Better pay.

The night shift differential is a big bonus for night shift nurses.

Those working the day shift have to work pretty significant overtime hours at times just to reach pay that's equivalent to a night shift nurse.

We covered this in more detail (using real numbers) in our deep dive on nursing shift differentials, but just to give you an idea.

A while back one of the nurses I talked to said that his shift differential just for working on night shift was covering his $500 truck payment.

2. Less people in the way.

As much as you may love your boss, most of them work the day shift.

That means you'll only have to deal with your fellow nurses and maybe an immediate supervisor during your shift, giving you a bit more freedom to let loose and actually enjoy your shift without management hovering over you.

3. You can take care of your patients in peace.

While your patients may enjoy when their family visits them, nurses know that extra people in the room can make tasks much more difficult.

Since no visitors are allowed at night, you can perform basic tasks like checking vitals without any interruptions.

Pro Tip:
Keep in mind that different hospitals will have different policies on this.

4. There are fewer distractions.

It might seem like I've already mentioned this above, but I wanted to emphasize it.

When I worked night shift I didn't particularly like it, but one of the things that I did like was that there were fewer distractions when it came to me doing my job.

  • Less administration.
  • Less visitors.
  • Fewer patient procedures going on.
  • No rounding by the treatment team.
  • No joint commission.

It was nice because I could just focus on providing excellent patient care without all the extra things.

5. Camaraderie.

Night shift nurses are able to socialize a bit more with their fellow nursing staff, leading to closer knit relationships.

There's a feeling of “we're in this together” that night shift nurses experience.

The frequent potlucks in the break room help the shift go by a little quicker, too!

I don't know if it's just because things at times could be slower, or that there's less management or visitors around, but pay attention to this.

(Video) Ask Jim: Is It Better to Work Only Night Shifts, or Bounce Back and Forth?

From my experience, the night shift crew just seem like they're having more “fun.”

6. Easier parking.

If you work in a hospital, you know how hazardous the parking situation can get.

Night shift means fewer employees and visitors at the hospital, leaving ample parking for you.

Pro Tip:
Some facilities even have different parking rules for the night crew than the dayshift crew.

For example, some of the places I've worked at dayshift staff had to park in the employee parking lot which is far away from the facility while night shift crew can park in the patient park spots which is right next to the facility.

Cons of Working Night Shift:

1. Difficult to sleep.

Adjusting to a new sleep pattern that completely goes against what your body is taught can take time.

It may take a month or more to establish a good sleep pattern.

Pro Tip:
Keep in mind that some people will struggle more with night shift than others.

I worked nights for about a year and it was a struggle from start to finish.

2. Increased chance of health problems.

With lack of sleep comes a higher risk of illnesses associated with sleep deprivation.

In addition, those working the night shift are more likely to be obese and suffer from health conditions like diabetes (source).

You can try to reduce the risk with proper sleep, diet, and exercise (which is inherently hard to do working nights).

3. Lack of social life.

Since most of your friends and family work during the day, it may be difficult to schedule time to see each other.

That being said, the time you do have together will be more valuable.

This one's a tough one, and if you're a parent or in a committed relationship it gets really tricky.

4. Trouble changing shifts.

If you don't work nights consistently, it may be very difficult to change from day to night shifts intermittently.

If you start on the night shift, it's best to stay on it so your body is able to stay on a consistent pattern.

I worked in stretches and then I would be off for a couple of days. I tried switching back to a regular sleep pattern and it was hard.

I would lose a day trying to change back to a regular schedule, and then lose another day trying to change back.

(Video) DAY SHIFT vs NIGHT SHIFT for Nurses

5. Constantly feeling like you're playing catch up.

Day shift nurses have the advantage of speaking with the doctors in person, so they're always up to speed on a patient's status.

Night shift nurses may only have chart notes and minimal contact with doctors to determine a patient's status and what needs to be done during a shift.

How can you get your body adjusted to sleeping during the day?

Our bodies aren't programmed to sleep when the sun is out.

Light greatly affects one's ability to sleep, which is why a majority of us sleep when it's dark out.

As a side note if you’re looking for a quick rundown on how light affects our sleep or circadian rhythm here’s a quick video on it.

Here's a longer video on the matter on a TED Talk by Sarah Morgan. It's slightly related and slightly unrelated, but still kinda interesting.

Night shift nurses don't have the option of sleeping at night, but there are ways to trick your body into thinking it's nighttime during the day.

Try these tips to get your body adjusted to this atypical sleep pattern (source):

  • Stop drinking caffeine at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Wear sunglasses on your drive home from work to get your body in sleep mode.
  • Make your room dark with room darkening curtains and eliminate any distractions, including devices like your cell phone.
  • Exercise regularly, but don't work out prior to bed.
  • Keep your schedule as consistent as possible, i.e. don't constantly change shifts from day to night.
  • Make up for lost sleep by taking a short nap prior to the start of your shift, or a quick 10-20 minute power nap while on break at work, if allowed.
  • Consult with your physician or a sleep specialist if you're still having trouble sleeping after trying these tips.

What are some quick tips on handling night shift?

In addition to the recommended sleeping tips above, there are many other things you can do to make the night shift easier.

(Video) SHOULD YOU WORK NIGHT SHIFT AS A NURSE? | day shift vs night shift pros and cons

1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Practice a diet consisting of smaller meals packed with protein on the days you work.

Heavy meals can make you feel bloated, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

Related Article: 10 Healthy Snacks for Nurses

2. Stay hydrated with plenty of water and non-sugary beverages.

Dehydration can make you more tired so always have a water bottle full of a healthy drink handy during your shift.

3. Minimize your caffeine intake.

Too much caffeine can make falling asleep harder and can also cause heart problems, so limit your caffeine intake to under 400 mg.

4. Stay up-to-date with your prescriptions, lab work, and doctor visits.

Finding and addressing problems, like sleep deprivation or diabetes, early on can yield better end results.

5. Give your body time.

Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another.

As a general rule, it takes a body at least a month to adjust to a new sleep pattern.

6. Find a schedule and stick to it.

If you start working nights, stay on nights.

Switching back and forth between night and day shifts can do more harm than good.

7. Talk to your loved ones about your schedule.

Working night shift affects more than just you, especially if you live with other people.

Make sure you're all on the same page so they respect your need for sleep during the day.

Also set aside time for being together where work does not interrupt at all.

8. Think positive.

A positive mindset is key when working night shift, especially at the beginning when your body is adjusting.

Remembering the positives you're gaining from working night shift can help with this.

Related Article: For more tips see 15 Tips for Surviving Night Shift Nursing.


While night shift can be difficult, it is also very rewarding.

If you take proper care of your body and maintain communication with your loved ones, you might find that you actually prefer working night shift over the day shift.

There are certainly many pros and there is always a need for good night shift nurses.

Related Article to Is Night Shift Hard

  • What is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Shift?
  • 10 Tips for Driving After Night Shift

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How bad is working night shift?

    Working nights is not bad for many people. Ultimately, it depends on the person and the routine they develop to help them manage working the 3rd shift.

  2. Why is night shift so bad?

    Night shift is bad because it can have detrimental effects on a persons physical and mental health.

  3. Do you gain weight working night shift?

    Yes, studies have shown that weight gain is possible when a person switches from day shift to night shift (source).

(Video) Day Shift VS Night Shift Nursing: Pros and Cons Between Day and Night Shift Nursing


Is night shift easier than day shift nurse? ›

And the answer is "Yes!" The night shift can be significantly easier to start with for new nurses. It doesn't have the overwhelming stress of many patients and doctors going in and out. On the contrary, the night shift will enable you to learn at a slower pace.

Do you get paid more for night shift? ›

Pay for night workers

All overnight workers must be paid at least National Minimum Wage, at the usual rate. There isn't a mandatory higher rate for working nights, although some businesses may choose to pay more (and we think you probably should).

Is it better to work night shift or day shift? ›

Day Shift Is Better for Your Health

Yes, all shift workers are at risk of Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD), but working night shift is a little worse because of the higher chance of sleep deprivation.

Why is working night shift so hard? ›

Night shifts cause the body to battle against its natural rhythms by trying to be alert when programmed to be sleeping. Similarly, when you go home after a night shift, the cues from your internal body clock and daytime light exposure tell you to be awake and active.

What is the best night shift schedule for nurses? ›

A twelve-hour schedule allows your body time to get into a working rhythm during night shift nursing. Grouping shifts in a two- or three-day cycle allows for longer periods of time off to enjoy family, friends, and personal time on a normal schedule. While three twelves may be tiring, the time off may just be worth it.

What is the best shift for nurses? ›

For some, the night shift is a preferred choice, as it offers nurses the opportunity to have free time during the day hours. Like the other types of shifts, night shifts have a 12-hour shift, which may be scheduled between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am.

How much is the night shift allowance? ›

The amount of the night shift allowance can vary depending on the company and the employee's position, but is typically between 10 and 20 percent of the regular pay rate. Work performed between 18:00 and 06:00 in the evening is considered night work.

How many hours rest after night shift? ›

The minimum rest period of 46 hours off applies following any block of Full Shift night working, including single night shifts, and should commence on conclusion of the final night shift.

How is night shift allowance calculated? ›

Shift allowance as % of basic wage:

Hence night shift is any work performed after 18:00 and before 06:00 the following day. Collective agreements provided a median shift allowance of 10 % of basic wage.

What is the healthiest shift to work? ›

The morning shift is considered by many to be the healthiest shift to work, though this can also include a 12-hour shift that starts in the morning.

What is the hardest shift to work in a nursing home? ›

Yes I guess 7-3 shift would be the hardest or busiest to work. Each shift has its challenges but I guess 7-3 would be the craziest. 3-11 would be not as crazy but still decently busy. 11-7 would be easier to work if you can deal with lack of sleep.

How do you work nights and still have a life? ›

So how do you keep a normal social life while you work the night shift?
Check out these five helpful tips:
  1. Plan ahead with your non-work friends. ...
  2. Limit your caffeine intake. ...
  3. Treat the switch to normal sleeping hours like jet lag. ...
  4. Group your night shift days together. ...
  5. Get to know your coworkers!
23 Jun 2014

Do night shifts age you? ›

Recent research showed the brains of workers who'd done 10 years of night shifts had aged by an extra six-and-a-half years. They couldn't remember as much or think so quickly. A massive study in the US has been following 75,000 female nurses who work shifts over the past 22 years.

What time do night shift nurses wake up? ›

The day shift normally runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the night shift covers 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

How much sleep do night nurses get? ›

Still, maintaining a regular sleep schedule that guarantees seven to eight hours of sleep is one of the best ways for night shift nurses to stay healthy and alert. To avoid the interruptions that are common to people who sleep during the day, nurses should find a quiet sleep area that is free of distractions.

Do nurses have a good work life balance? ›

Nurses can have an especially difficult time balancing work and personal life because of the increased amount of physical and emotional stress that nurses experience. Taking time to decompress after a shift and remembering to prioritize their own needs are necessary to developing a healthy work-life balance.

Do nurses live longer? ›

The findings, which appear in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, show that people with access to informal health expertise, such as having a doctor or nurse in the family, are 10 percent more likely to live beyond age 80.

What does 3x12 mean in nursing? ›

Schedule Available: Day or night shifts including 4x10 (four 10-hour shifts) or 3x12 (three 12-hour shifts) schedules available.

How many hours can a night shift worker work? ›

Restrictions on night work

As a night worker, you should not work more than an average of eight hours in each 24-hour period. This average is usually calculated over a 17-week period. This includes regular overtime, but not occasional overtime.

How many hours a week should I work? ›

If you want to achieve the perfect blend of productivity, happiness, and time affluence, a more realistic goal is to work slightly below 40 hours per week. The research shows that even shaving an hour or two off of the standard 40-hour workweek can have huge benefits, both at work and at home.

What hours are classed as night shift? ›

What are night shift hours? Night shift hours are any hours worked by an employee during the 'night period' , which is typically between 11 pm and 6 am unless employers and employees agree on a different night period.

How do you sleep during the day when working nights? ›

Using blackout curtains and keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule can help your body adjust to sleeping during the day. If those behavioral changes don't help, doctors can prescribe medications to help people stay alert when they need to be awake and help shift workers fall asleep.

How do you survive night shift? ›

Tips for staying awake and alert during your shift
  1. Nap. Take a 30 minute nap before your shift begins and, if possible, try to get in a few 10-20 minute naps throughout the night. ...
  2. Eat small portions throughout the shift. ...
  3. Keep moving. ...
  4. Chat with your co-workers. ...
  5. Be careful with your caffeine intake.
31 Aug 2011

What is night shift differential pay? ›

Overview: What is night differential? Night differential is an increase in pay to compensate employees for working night shifts. Employees will receive either an absolute increase in pay per hour or additional money calculated as a percent of base pay in exchange for working graveyard shift hours.

How do you calculate shift pay? ›

In basic terms, you work out the calculation for shift work pay by multiplying the number of hours in a specific period by the hourly rate of the employee. This will give you the wage for this period.

How is shift differential pay calculated? ›

Multiply the percentage by the hourly wage to figure out differential pay. For example, if a worker earns $20 an hour, and the differential for the night shift is 10 percent: 20 x 0.10 = 2 Therefore, the differential pay would be $2 per hour.

What is the hardest shift to work? ›

The night shift is difficult physically, but the afternoon shift can be hard on your family and social life. In my last post, I talked about shift workers' preferred shift, which is the day shift, and the implications of that preference on worker satisfaction levels.

At what age should you stop working night shifts? ›

Mid-20s and 30s: Shifting away from shift work

But whether you're more of a morning or evening person, many studies consistently show that irregular or overnight shift work can have a negative impact on your health.

What is the most popular work shift? ›

The most common full-time work schedule is a variant of 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, adding up to 40 hours per week. While most full-time work schedules are normally the same shift each day, in some cases (like retail), shifts can vary, but the number of hours will still add up to 35-40 per week.

Why second shift is the best? ›

Second shift work schedules allow for a sleep pattern that is more conducive to getting the right amount of sleep. Getting off work at midnight means there are fewer distractions and things to do that can keep you from going to bed at a good time.

Why nurses are leaving long term care? ›

Surveyed nurses said staffing, pay, and lack of support are factors affecting decision to leave. Among surveyed RNs, 32 percent indicated a likelihood of leaving their current position providing direct patient care in November 2021, up from 22 percent in February 2021.

Do nurses have to do night shifts? ›

Nursing is not a 9 to 5 job. People need medical care 24/7 and the work hours for the healthcare professionals vary. At some point most of the nurses experience the 24-hour care system by taking on a night shift. To begin with, being a nurse in general is not easy.

What is the disadvantage of night shift? ›

Sleeping during the day and working at night increases your risk of obesity and diabetes. In the case of night-shift workers, these disorders are caused by an imbalance in hormone production. The real danger here is that even if you eat a healthy diet, the hormone imbalance can still lead to obesity and diabetes.

How do you handle night shift interview questions? ›

“Are you comfortable with night shifts?” or “Are you flexible with night shift?” or “Are you comfortable with rotating shifts?” is a common HR interview question asked in MNCs like TCS and Wipro.

Should you sleep after Nightshift? ›

After the shift

It is important to try to ensure that you sleep well following the night shift, especially if you are on a long stretch of nights. It is advisable to go to sleep soon after returning home, otherwise external stimuli, such as sunlight, are likely to keep you awake for longer.

Do nurses prefer night shifts? ›

It may be scary to think about taking on a nocturnal job, but there are plenty of ways you can make working the night shift a little less painful. Many nurses actually prefer night shifts!

Is night shift better for new grad nurses? ›

Night shift is great for new nurses, because there is more downtime to learn. Day shift can be overwhelming for a new grad, so I suggest trying the nightlife until you get the hang of things. It allows for more time to look at your patient's chart and learn why you are doing what you are doing.

What is it like being a night shift nurse? ›

Night shifts generally have fewer nurses and other staff working than other shifts, so nurses working at night depend on their nursing team for support. This means during their quiet times, night shift nurses are often kept busy helping other nurses.

What nurses do on night shift? ›

Duties. Night shift nurses have the same responsibilities as day shift nurses, including routine patient care, administering medication and addressing patient concerns. Often, night shift work is slower and more manageable than day shift work as many patients are asleep.

Why do night nurses get paid more? ›

Earn a higher salary

Many hospitals offer more money to night shift nurses than day shift nurses. This is because the irregular hours of night shifts may be less desirable, in general, to job candidates. If you want a higher paycheck, you might consider working on the night shift more often.

Why night shift nursing is the best? ›

One of the biggest advantages of being a night shift nurse is you will not have to deal with patient visitors. In addition, you will not have to deal with any family members of patients. You can just come in and do your job and skip the small talk with patient visitors that can often be time-consuming.

How do nurses stay up all night? ›

The NSF suggests drinking a caffeinated beverage, such as coffee, tea or cola, to help maintain alertness during a night shift. Taking about 20 to 35 minutes to improve an individual's level of alertness, caffeine is an effective method for offsetting fatigue.

How do I switch from day shift to night shift nursing? ›

Have at least 10-12 hours off between shifts so that you can obtain sufficient sleep. (Rogers, 2008). Wake up at a normal time in the morning, but try to take a nap before work in the evening. Get up early that day; increase physical activity; take a 2 hour nap in the afternoon • Sleep in until 12noon or 1p.

How do you survive a 24 hour shift? ›

During your 24-hour shift, take care of yourself.

“Drink lots of water, especially if you're using caffeine,” said Dr. Burmeister. “Carry healthful snacks. Be aware of when you're tired so that you can continue to make good decisions for your patients.

What does NOC shift mean? ›

Somewhere in the long history of medicine, the night shift was called the nocturnal shift, staffed by nocturnal nurses. Before long, the NOC shift entered the grand and often bizarre world of medical abbreviations. Nurses love to banter about which shift is the hardest.

Is it worth it to work night shift? ›

The reasons to work night shift include items like increased pay, reduced competition on the job, coworkers who can relate, greater vacation flexibility, autonomy, less distractions and an ability to run errands when everyone else is working.

Why is working nights better? ›

The night shift has fewer disruptions from micromanaging bosses or difficult coworkers, meaning that you can relax, focus and pay more attention to your work. In turn, this will boost your productivity and reflect well when your annual performance review comes around.

What kind of nurses make the most money? ›

Highest Paid Nursing Jobs:
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist – $202,000.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – $131,000.
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner – $120,000.
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner – $119,000.
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner – $119,000.
  • General Nurse Practitioner – $118,000.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner – $116,000.
1 Sept 2022

How do nurses eat on night shift? ›

Planning your food intake throughout the night shift

Eat protein for your first meal at the beginning of your shift. This will give you long-lasting energy and make you more alert. Then eat small, frequent snacks throughout the night, alternating a lean protein with a carbohydrate, to keep you awake and satisfied.

How long should you sleep before a night shift? ›

It is a good idea to take a nap just before reporting for a night shift. This makes you more alert on the job. A nap of about 90 minutes seems to be best. Naps during work hours may also help you stay awake and alert.


1. Night Shift Nurse | What it is like Working Night Shift in Nursing
2. Night Shifts | Nursing Students Q&A
(Oxford Brookes University)
3. I Hate Night Shift Nursing. Pros and Cons I TIFFANYRN
(Tiffany Nguyen, RN)
4. What is 1st Shift, 2nd Shift, and 3rd shift? Which is Better? | Best Shifts for Work
5. Which Shift is Better? | DAY SHIFT vs. NIGHT SHIFT NURSING
(Tam Kam)
6. Day shift Vs Night shift Nurse | Which shift is better? | Pros and Cons | RN | 12Hr shifts | 2020
(Momma Nurse)

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