How to Stay Healthy Working Night Shifts

Shift work can occur in almost any industry – anything from the emergency services to factory work. Shift work can be an issue for those who are looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

So how can shift work affect health?

Its look’s like the upset caused to our circadian rhythm is the main problem. Our circadian rhythm is basically the bodies internal body clock which regulates things such as our sleep pattern, cell regulation and a number of other biological processes. The normal circadian clock is set by the light-dark cycle over 24 hours. You can see how that may stress the body mentally and physically, imagine waking when the sun rises and sleeping after sun set and then due to your work that being flipped the other way around!

Here are some of the steps you can take to maintain your health 

1. Prioritize sleep.

Ask yourself, are you really getting the recommended 7–9 hours each night? If you’re nodding off more than nodding yes, put sleep down as a calendar item. Setting up a good sleep environment can help you put more hours in your sleep bank. Here are few tricks: Set your thermostat between 54–75 degrees F. Invest in thick blinds and window covers to minimize pesky light leakage. Keep electronics off your bed and set your phone on silent. Use earplugs to block out extra noise.

2. Pack nutrient-dense snacks.

Have a good snack strategy ready to squash late-night cravings. The selection at 24-hour eateries (think: gas station stops, fast food joints, and vending machines) are rarely healthy. Save some money and empty calories by bringing your own snacks. You can preportion food into plastic containers or resealable bags so it’s easier to keep track of how much you eat. Choose nutrient-dense snacks such as trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, sliced fruit, and yogurt.

3. Don’t skimp on exercise.

If the choice is between sleep and exercise, go with sleep. However, making exercise a priority is critical for getting closer to your goal weight. It also has the extra benefit of promoting good sleep. Since the gym (or sun) may not be in your favor, sneak in some indoor workouts. Invest in some workout apps or stream workouts when you have a break or some down time. Bonus: Get your co-workers involved for extra motivation!

4. Don’t abuse caffeinated drinks.

Caffeine is no sleep replacement, but it’s common to prop ourselves awake with it during the work “day.” But, as it comes close to the end of your night shift, don’t drink fully caffeinated coffee, tea, and sodas. Caffeine is a stimulant that persists for hours after your last sip, so it’s crucial not to let it ruin your sleep.

5. Set up a regular schedule for your meals.

Disrupting the circadian clock increases risk for obesity because it alters metabolism by increasing blood sugar after a meal. But light isn’t the only factor. Your circadian rhythm is also affected by meal timing, so set up and stick to a regular eating schedule. If you’re used to eating three regular meals during the day, then establish the same routine at night.

If you are looking for an app to manage your shifts and rotations, check out MyShiftWork