Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

The night owl


Working nights can be challenging. I've found that prioritizing sleep and prepping healthy foods helps a great deal. 

The human world is not made for night owls working the night shift. Daytime sleep is interrupted by construction workers, garbage trucks, barking dogs, and bright sunlight making its way through heavy blackout curtains. 


At the hospital the night is long and quiet. As I walk the hallways, familiar faces smile at me. I try to fool my cortisol and melatonin levels to stay awake and attentive to patients. I’ve learned to take care of myself as a night doctor to better serve my patients and fulfill my purpose as a physician. When working at night, here are a few tips:  


1. Prioritize sleep.  

Wear sunglasses on the way home, avoid unnecessary sunlight exposure, and go to sleep as soon as you can. Keep the bedroom cool and dark. An eye mask may help. Take melatonin if needed. 


2. Meal prep healthy food, including snacks.  

Also, drink plenty of water throughout the night. 


3. Move. 

Stand up or walk around every one to two hours during the night shift. Stretch, do yoga, or go for a walk before your shift. Get exposed to sunlight upon waking. 


4. Involve family.  

Put your phone on silent mode and ask housemates to be quiet during the day. 


5. Be gentle to yourself. 

House chores can wait. Plan for grocery shopping on your days off. Don’t be hard on yourself. 



The nocturns continue to work until a warm light makes its way through window blinds. Early birds are heard chirping and the night owl yawns. “My guard is over,” I tell myself while walking into the sunrise. 









This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.