How to Reduce Exhaustion on a Night Shift – for Midwives, Nurses and Health Professionals


Night shifts can be harsh on your health. They may start out okay but I think we all know it’s just not right to be up all night. We don’t need science to tell us that, we can feel it.

Being a midwife is a real calling. Supporting women through the miracle of birth is an incredible skill and such an important job for the future of humanity. This is the bit where I say thank you to all the midwives and doulas out there who regularly do this work for women and babies everywhere. We salute you and we need you. Night shifts aren’t great for your health but yes, we also need you to do them sometimes and are grateful to you for that.

Working a night shift may be okay once in a while, but when night shift work is repeated over and over it can have repercussions. There are ways to reduce exhaustion on a night shift so if you’re regularly burning the midnight oil, please use these tips for your self-care.

Reduce exhaustion on a night shift - tips for midwives

Using Chinese Medicine to Reduce Exhaustion on a Night Shift

From a Chinese medicine point of view, working the night shift drains your Kidney energy. What is that and does it really matter?

According to Chinese medicine, the Kidneys are the foundation of life, so yes, they matter a lot. They balance the fire and water in the body, they are associated with things like genes and energy stores and so they can be affected according to what you do.

You may have heard of epigenetics? This is the ability for genes to turn on and off according to environmental, lifestyle and other factors. Staying up all night a lot can have an impact on whether or not you express certain genetic probabilities, and this is synonymous with Kidney energy changing or being depleted.

Another way to think of it is dipping into your energy stores or “superannuation” every time you have a night shift – it will slowly eat away at your savings, making it more likely that you will develop problems for which you are genetically predisposed, whereas getting plenty of sleep and caring for your Kidney health can protect against health problems.

Signs and Prevention of Night Shift Exhaustion

What kind of symptoms could you experience if your Kidneys were deficient? Knee problems, hair falling out, hair going grey prematurely, achey lower back pain, fertility issues, hearing loss and more.

So how can you prevent the impact of night shift exhaustion as much as possible or at least halt further decline?

  • Make bone broth and drink it regularly during the day as well as during your shift. Why? Because bone broth is a strong Kidney tonic and will help replenish lost reserves. If your deficiency is more severe then eating organic offal can be beneficial.
  • Sleep when you get home. If you can’t sleep you need to get to the bottom of why. Is it because your room is too light? Then you’ll need to invest in some block-out blinds. Is it because your mind is too active? Then finding some calming measures can be super helpful – things like guided meditation or Yoga Nidra (see below).
  • Yoga Nidra. This is my all-time favourite kind of yoga. It’s where you lie down with an eye bag over your eyes (amazing first step wouldn’t you say), then a guiding voice takes you around your body and you bring your attention to each area as it is spoken. It completely rests your body and re-connects your mind with your body so you can start to deeply relax. Yoga Nidra helps in time of high stress but also helps reduce exhaustion on a night shift when you feel wired and tired but still can’t fall asleep. Just type Yoga Nidra into your app store and you’ll come up with some options. Many of them are free so you can try them and see for yourself.
  • Eat slow-cooked food a few times a week. This will balance out all the rushed food and puts a calming, chilled out vibe in your body. Sounds a bit coo-coo I know but it’s amazing the kind of impact the way your food is cooked has on you. In our Ancient Secrets course we get our midwife students to do an experiment with food. We ask them to one day eat all raw food and see how they feel versus one day of all cooked food. It has quite an impact on everyone in different ways and goes to show that the way we cook (or don’t cook) our food may have more of an impact than we realise. My slow cooker was such a great investment. They’re around $100 and the food you can cook in them is heaven.
  • When you’re on night shifts for a while, make sure you have green vegetables at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes you did hear that correctly, I said breakfast too! Why? Because there are so many vitamins and minerals in them that you need more of them when you aren’t getting the right amount of sleep. Your body will function better on higher amounts of vegetables. Sure, have protein and wholegrains too but just ensure you’re eating some veg at each meal and see how you feel. It doesn’t have to be leafy greens at every meal but do eat them at least once a day if not twice. They’re also brilliant food for the good bacteria in your gut, which you need to feed to keep your immune system strong and keep you digesting well.
  • You’re giving a lot and often to the women in your care. To reduce exhaustion on a night shift it’s important that you also make time to take care of you. So what do you enjoy doing? Having a bath? Going for a walk? Reading? A yoga class? Whatever it is, it’s important to fill your own bucket up with kindness and nourishment for yourself.

If you feel you’re too far gone with night shift exhaustion for these sorts of remedies to help you then you should consider getting rebalanced with some acupuncture and herbs. They can be super helpful to get you back on track quicker than just food alone. If you have any other tips you’d like to share with us, please do on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you and hear what works for you.

Need more tips on self-care for midwives and birth professionals? Our accredited home study program not only teaches acupressure and Eastern wisdom for pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, but there’s a whole module dedicated to self-care for YOU. Enrol in Ancient Secrets for Better Bumps Births and Babies today.