What To Do On Night Shift Days Off? 11 Life Improving Tips!

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Are you curious about what you should be doing on your night shift days off? Turns out, you are certainly not alone here. This is a major question among night shifters.

If you have recently accepted, or have just started a night shift position, you are probably wondering just how you are supposed to adjust to this kind of lifestyle.

So, we have gathered all of these helpful tips from REAL people working the night shift. Having personal experience working the night shift, this is everything we agree with as well.

While we focus on nursing careers at Midlife Nursing, this list can apply to every industry where night shifts are required. So, check out these tips, tricks, and helpful suggestions, and see if they help improve your experience working the night shift.

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Read more on our privacy policy page.

What You Should Do On Your Night Shift Days Off

night shift days off

1. Catch Up On Sleep WITHOUT Guilt

On your night shift days off, this may seem obvious, but, SLEEP!

It’s no secret that night shift workers are at higher risk for health problems due to less sleep and this messing with our circadian rhythm. Read more here.

But don’t panic! You can still be healthy and live a healthy lifestyle working the night shift by taking your sleep schedule more seriously.

So be consistent and make sleep a priority. If you work 12-hour shifts for example, and you get home at 7 am, treat it like it is 7 pm. Go to bed between 9 am and 10 am and sleep until around 5 pm to 5:30 pm, at least.

If you have kids this can be a little tricky. But if your kids are older, sleep while they are in school. Also, you may want to look into an after-school program. That way you don’t feel pressured to pick them up at a set time, such as right when school is let out for the day. Worries like that can affect your sleep during the day for obvious reasons.

Here Are Some Items To Help You Get Better Sleep After Working The Night Shift:

VELIMAX Static Cling Total Blackout Window Film

Amazon Link To This Item

Forget “blackout curtains”. Most of them just don’t do the job necessary for sleeping deeply during the day. So many night shifters have switched to “window film”, and are sleeping long stretches now thanks to products like this. I have also learned that aluminum foil works great as well.

Sleep Headphones, LC-dolida Sleeping Eye Mask for Side Sleepers 

Amazon Link To This Item

To get the best sleep possible on your night shift days off, pair a good sleep mask with your blacked-out windows. You may just sleep better than you did at night.

This specific sleep mask comes highly recommended in the top night shift Facebook groups. People like that this mask is designed to comfortably let you sleep on your side. It also blacks out any remaining light that may get in through the windows.

2. Start Small With Your Errands After a Night Shift

Make a “to-do” list but write it out on a monthly basis, not daily.

For example, have set days for:

  • Laundry
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Doctors and dentist appointments
  • Gym days
  • Meal prep days

Try to plan these out right when you get your work schedule. If you have a set schedule, even better.

If you have set days where you do specific things, you don’t have to think about what you need to do while you are at work. You also won’t feel pressured to burn yourself out by trying to get as much as possible accomplished in just one day.

This can lead to setting ourselves up for failure and guilt. That cycle can ultimately turn into bad habits where you find yourself never getting things done on a regular basis.

So be kind to yourself, spread the things you need to do out.

If you don’t have a planner, here is a great one with lots of room to write in:

Amazon Link To Item

3. Avoid The Couch As Much As Possible

If productivity is your goal, before you sit down, make sure you finished the things that you had pre-scheduled in your planner. So for example, if it was your scheduled laundry day, do that first.

Once you are done with your to-do list for that day, “reward” yourself with couch time and you will have way less guilt.

Nothing kills productivity faster than sitting on the couch. However, it is important to mention that I am not demonizing the couch either. It is an important part of self-care and relaxation for many people.

But as mentioned above, you will enjoy it so much more, and be far less likely to beat yourself up for it if you accomplished what you needed to get done that day, first.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from night shifters is that they get nothing done because they only end up watching TV shows on their off days. Try this method and see if it helps you feel like you got more done on your days off.

4. Catch Up On The Shows You Love

night shift days off

This may sound contradictory with what we covered in the tip above, but stay with me.

Self-care is important and it is nothing to feel ashamed about. Think about people who work days. They also spend most of their week at work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, then go to bed.

If you have completed your to-do list, or better yet, you scheduled full days off with nothing to do, binge-watch your favorite show if that’s what brings you joy. Really, it’s okay. We are all just doing the best we can.

5. Go Bike Riding On Night Shift Days Off

Interestingly, one thing I have seen a lot of people say they do on their night shift days off is bike ride. However, if you ride at night, just make sure to wear your reflective gear, please.

It actually makes sense that this is popular among night shifters.

Bike riding is great exercise and a great way to get some much-needed vitamin D that many night shifters lack. If you have a full day off, one of the best things you can do on your night shift day off is to go soak in some sun.

6. Meal Prep The Healthy Foods You Enjoy

night shift days off

Many night shifters complain that they struggle with their diet. The odd hours, and sleeping during the day, can make eating healthy difficult.

However, it can and still should be done. So with the planner above, schedule your “meal prep” days. One to two days a week should suffice to meal prep for night shifts.

And just keep it simple. Make this a priority to instantly improve the quality of your life working the night shift.

Here are some meal prep ideas to start with:

ProteinsBraised chicken, seared steak, baked fish, sauteed shrimp, hardboiled eggs, pork roast, and browned ground turkey.
CarbohydratesWhite or brown rice, baked potatoes, pasta, quinoa, overnight oatmeal, cook a pot of beans, muffins, and banana bread. 
VegetablesSheet pan of baked vegetables, steamed broccoli, washed and dried lettuce, washed and ready-to-eat carrots, cucumbers, diced onions, and cherry tomatoes.
Fruits and SnacksBananas, chopped watermelon, apples, greek yogurt cups, granola, peanut butter, nuts, crackers, pretzels, and popcorn.

You can throw together so many meals if you have a handful of these foods already cooked and prepped. For example:

  • Chicken, rice, and broccoli (the classic “bro” food combo)
  • Steak, baked potato, and a side salad
  • Fish, quinoa, and sheet pan veggies
  • Ground turkey, pasta with marinara, and a side salad
  • Breakfasts: hardboiled egg, overnight oats, muffins, and banana bread

You will sleep better, feel better and hey, let’s face it, look better. A little vanity motivation never hurt anyone.

Here are some great meal prep containers if you don’t have anything to pack healthy meals like this into:

Amazon Link To This Item

And if you don’t have one already, GET an Instant Pot! You can cook your proteins in the pot while you are sleeping during the day. It is a meal-prep must-have tool.

Amazon Link To This Item

7. Learn Something New On Your Night Shift Days Off

night shift days off

Those night shift days off can get really lonely and boring sometimes. Being awake when it feels like the whole rest of the world is asleep… Feelings of solace and purposelessness is not uncommon.

But being awake when no one else is, is a really great opportunity to start focusing on learning that new skill or hobby you thought you never had the time for.

Here are some cool ideas:

  • Instrument (ex: guitar or piano)
  • Language (Spanish is helpful and important)
  • Side Hustle (create a course or blog)
  • Animals (ex: a dog breed or chameleons)
  • Saltwater fish tank aquarium
  • Sewing, knitting or crochet
  • Repurpose and sell old furniture

If you are tired of spending your hours off playing video games or watching Netflix all night, learning a new skill or hobby is a great alternative. It can also help you to appreciate working the night shift due to the increased ability to focus thanks to the extra peace and quiet.

What NOT To Do On Your Night Shift Days Off

night shift days off

1. Don’t Make Too Many Plans and Commitments After a Night Shift

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real problem for many night shifters.

Many night shifters complain that they make all kinds of plans, but once they come home they don’t have the energy to follow through. OR, they do end up going out, and end up missing out on the necessary sleep that was needed after their shift.

If you catch yourself saying yes to plans that you know in your gut are likely not going to be good for you, just be honest. Let those friends or family know that you will have to let them know when it gets closer to that time. Or better yet, if you know those plans are not very realistic, just let them know you will be sleeping or catching up on things at home.

Your real friends and family will understand and will want the best for you.

2. Don’t Eat Unhealthy Food After a Night Shift

night shift days off

A lot of night shifters admit to not having the energy to cook on their days off and end up eating processed and fast foods on their days off. Additionally, many eat that way on shift as well.

It is really hard for the body to recover from a lack of sleep. So, the last thing we want to pile on top of that is unhealthy food and poor fuel quality.

So use the tips above. Plan your meal prep days. Cook healthier foods and they will be ready for you when you are exhausted on your night shift days off.

3. Avoid “Powering Through” And Skipping On Sleep

I know it can be tempting, but imagine if a day shifter came home and then “powered through” and didn’t sleep that night, and then even went to work the next day. All because they wanted to get more done?

Imagine that they did this on a regular basis. That is someone people probably wouldn’t like being around much, don’t you agree? And if you work in a high-risk job, that compromises yours and others’ safety as well.

Night shift is a lifestyle. A flip-flopped lifestyle. Day shifters feel like all they do is work, and that their few days off fly by too. You are not alone.

So don’t put that pressure on yourself, and feel like you need to sacrifice your sleep in order to satisfy more people and do more of “all the things”.

4. Don’t Wildly Change Your Sleep Schedule After A Night Shift

night shift days off

Not everyone can do this for various reasons. For example, if you go to school during the day, and work nights on weekends.

However, if you work the night shift for your career, for best results, you really should adjust your lifestyle to live those hours regularly. Read here on the importance of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

To help you adjust and live as normal of a life as possible, here are some things you should consider taking advantage of on your night shift days off:

  • Go to a 24-hour gym
  • Enjoy the nightlife on your night shift days off (bars and clubs are open late)
  • Go to a nice restaurant that is open late for date night
  • Go to your local 24-hour Walmart or grocery store (shopping late at night when the store is quiet is awesome)
  • 7 eleven for a late-night snack fix
  • Most casinos are open 24/7

To Conclude Our Night Shift Days Off Tips

I know many of us gripe about the night shift life, but most of us also acknowledge that there is something truly special about it too.

Less administration, less noise from the outside world. You have more time to create very special bonds with your fellow night shift workers. After all, only you all know what it is like to live this kind of lifestyle.

Night Shift Days Off Key Points:

  1. SLEEP (it is a must for all human beings, day or night shift)
  2. Don’t over-commit to errands and plans
  3. Use and stick to a planner to maintain productivity
  4. Practice self-care (watch shows, learn something new, and exercise)
  5. Meal prep (eat healthy!)
  6. Stay consistent with your lifestyle and schedule

Let us know in the comments, would you add anything else? What do you do on your night shift days off?

Jackie Jimenez BSN, RN
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