Lee Nelson
Lee Nelson
August 2, 2018 - 3 min read

Five Tips to Get Better Sleep on Your Travel Nurse Assignment

A new travel assignment and a new temporary home can bring joy along with some frustrations.

For many people, it’s tough getting a good’s night sleep in different surroundings. That can be for a lot of reasons – nerves for a new job, homesickness, bad mattress or “first-night effect” phenomenon.

A Brown University study last year found that one brain hemisphere remains more awake than the other during deep sleep to keep watch over your new and strange environment. Animals do similar things. Seals sleep with one eye open, for instance. The study shows that most people return to their normal sleep habits the second night.

However, it might take longer in a new place especially if you are changing travel assignments every 13 weeks or traveling to completely new places you have never been in your life. It might take some effort to get on a solid sleeping schedule for the sake of your health, safety and productivity.

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Lack of sleep takes its toll on your work

Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to so many things in your life and job, says Dr. M. Safwan Badr, professor and chief of the divisions of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

“So many errors can be made in the medical profession especially for those who stay up all night,” he says. “There is a consensus among all professional societies that we need more than 7 hours of sleep. But it is a three-legged stool. You need nutrition, exercise and sleep for the three pillars of optimal health.”

Survey: 84% say they are more irritable with little sleep

The recent research titled Wake-Up Call: The Importance of Sleep in Organizational Life from Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass., reveals some interesting statistics.

Over half of people who do not get enough sleep struggle to stay focused in meetings, took longer to complete tasks and found it challenging to generate new ideas.

That’s not good news for nurses, no matter what shift you work or department you work in. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed felt more irritable as a result of poor sleep, and well over half experienced higher levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of frustration.

Even getting an extra half hour to hour sleep can help tremendously.

For those travel nurses who have problems sleeping in a new place at least for the first few days, here are some ideas to try for restful sleep:

1. Treat yourself  like a kid

Avoid caffeine beverages at night, keep bright lights out of the bedroom especially your cell phone, wind down an hour before sleep, and go to bed earlier if you aren’t getting enough sleep, Badr says.

2. Remake your bedroom for comfort and peace

Your bedroom can be the biggest catalyst for you getting a great sleep, says The Better Sleep Council.

Even in a rented apartment as a travel nurse, there some important things you can add, fix or remove to help you get through those unsettling first nights in a new place.

Choose room-darkening blinds or drapes for your sleeping time, especially if you work nights and sleep days. But let the sunshine in during the rest of the day. Make sure your sheets are comfortable and clean, and your pillow isn’t lumpy or too stiff.

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3. Turn on a fan and an ocean CD

If you need to block unwanted noise coming from an adjacent apartment, just buy a fan at your local big box store.

If you like the sound of the ocean but live in the Midwest or mountains, you can buy a CD or find a smartphone app with sea, woods or other soothing sounds.

The Better Sleep Council also suggests that an air purifier, air conditioner or small fountain can be great white noises to distract strange noises in a new place.

Earplugs also work wonders.

4. Keep temperature and body cool

The Better Sleep Council reveals that the ideal bedroom temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees. Also, if you have too many comforters, pillows and blankets, you might be too hot and feel stifled. You can also get a cooling gel mattress pad or pillows with the same concept.

5. Make exercise part of your plan

Making exercise whether it be just walking, running, swimming, dancing or anything else that gets your heart pumping and your body sweating can actually promote better sleeping. Just don’t do your activity too close to your sleeping time, Badr says.

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