On the contrary, many holidays seem to generate their share of new patients. It’s a rare emergency department, for example, that sends staff home early on Independence Day. Alcohol-fueled celebrations and powerful fireworks are a volatile combination, to be sure, and accident victims are common during these celebrations. Likewise, mishaps in the kitchen are not uncommon at Thanksgiving.
Which brings us to the issue of the night shift. Sooner or later, at some point in your career, you will probably be asked to take some night shifts. As a nursing professional, you will be aware that the concept of staying alert and active all night goes against millions of years of evolution. Humans are diurnal, meaning we’re adapted to being awake during daylight hours—and sound asleep after dark. Our circadian rhythms are finely tuned to ensure our alertness during the day, and to prepare us for restorative sleep at night.Working night shift requires your body and brain to upend that natural cycle, and doing so can be harder than it sounds. There’s a reason people who often fly great distances suffer from jet lag. Jet lag is a constellation of symptoms that arise when one crosses three or more time zones rapidly. The more time zones crossed, the more difficult the adjustment may be at the new destination. To say that it’s a simple matter of sleeping enough during the day to get the rest you will miss during the night is a gross oversimplification of the challenge of adapting to this drastic change.
Many of the body’s processes, including cycles taking place within the digestive tract (and influenced by the communities of friendly microbes that constitute the microbiome), are “thrown out of whack” for lack of a better description, by the shift from diurnal to nocturnal activity. In short, abruptly switching from day shift to night shift can be surprisingly hard on your body.
However, it is possible to adapt to this schedule. Many people have done it before you. But switching back and forth unpredictably from days to nights is arguably hard on your body. The human body simply doesn’t handle repeated interruptions to the circadian rhythm all that well. Some people will experience problems with appetite; having none, or being unexpectedly ravenous. Don’t be surprised if it takes you two weeks or more to adapt to your new work schedule.