'Don’t try and 'trick' your body into changing day into night': NHS nurse on riding through the fatigue of night shifts

If you’ve ever felt that you simply don’t have time to cycle, you’re far from alone. However, one NHS shift worker and avid cyclist has this advice: “just do it”.

Nurse walks through emergency ward at speed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I work as a nurse in the UK National Health Service (NHS), long days and often long nights. You miss the structure and the motivation is difficult at times,”  Dave O’Keefe begins.  Night shifts can have serious impacts on your health but lifestyle changes can help. For O’Keefe - who has worked with the NHS for 25 years and covered shifts for decades - the answer is organisation, and sticking to a plan. “I have to be quite disciplined. Shift work means you lose the usual structure of days and nights, so, I have to give myself a structure,” he says. 

“I look ahead at the 2-hour gaps I’ve got and make it work. I get home from a night shift at 9-10am. I then have a couple of hours sleep followed by a couple of hours gentle cycling. It is my reward for the night shift – surviving the nights. Once I’m a bit more recovered the next day I would do a bit of a longer ride.”  

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Hannah Reynolds

Hannah Reynolds interest in cycling began while studying for a degree in Sports Science at the University College Chichester and surrounded by elite level cyclists. She is now undertaking a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University investigating the use of e-bikes by older people. 

A committed dabbler whose passion outweighed her talent Reynolds has competed across all disciplines of cycling bar BMX. In the very distant past she has been south-east road race champion, southern cyclo-cross champion and finished third in the European 24hr Solo mountain-bike champs in 2011. She was also the Fitness Editor of Cycling Weekly for 15 years. 

Hannah Reynolds is author of several cycling books, France-en-Velo a guide to the ultimate 1000 mile cycle route from the Channel to Med; Britain's Best Bike Ride. LEJOG1000; A 1000 mile journey from Land's End to John o' Groats and 1001 Cycling Tips