10+ Tips on Staying Healthy While Working Night Shifts

October 03, 2018 in Afni News

Working the night shift or being in shifting schedules can make sticking to a healthy lifestyle a challenge. You are more likely to eat irregularly, resort to unhealthy types of food, skip meals, and ditch the exercise.

Studies have shown that people who work at night and have varying schedules are more at risk of weight gain and heart diseases than those who work set daily hours. Having this kind of work arrangement, it is important that you implement a personal routine which is easy to follow, works with your lifestyle, and allows you to indulge on healthy habits.

Here are some tips on how to stay healthy if you work at night:

1. Take an hour or so to relax after work, whether it is day or night time. Listening to relaxing music or having a warm bath will help.

2. Eat meals at the same time each day, seven days a week, and stick to that schedule to help regulate your body clock. Your diet should be comprised of three main meals a day, with snacks in between. If you can do ‘regular’ meal times, even better! Avoid eating massive meals in the middle of the night. Try eating breakfast as soon as you get home, lunch when you wake up, and dinner before you going to work. You can also pack protein-rich snacks to take with you so you stay full throughout your shift.

3. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before bedtime. Although the sedative effect helps you fall asleep, it tends to wear off in 2 - 3 hours causing sleep disturbance.

4. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and other caffeinated drinks which interfere with sleep. On your break time, drink orange juice, a good source of protein, and walk around. Physical activity promotes alertness and keeps you awake. The biggest health killer is constantly drinking coffee and energy drinks, especially throughout the night.

5. Avoid going to bed on an empty stomach. If you don't feel like eating much before bed time, try drinking a glass of milk or consuming dairy products. These types of food promote sleep.

6. Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool, and not cold. 64 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 to 18.9 degrees Celsius) is best.

7. Darken your bedroom or wear comfortable eyeshades. The eyes are sensitive to light even when the lids are closed, preventing you from dozing off and getting quality sleep.

8. Block out daytime noises which can prevent you from getting deep, restful sleep. Use comfortable sponge ear plugs or "white noise" electrical devices such as fans and air conditioners.

9. Exercise at least every other day upon waking up. Daytime sleepers should avoid early morning exercise, which can promote wakefulness throughout the day. Try to fit in exercise when you can. Instead of sitting down for long periods of time, try standing every now and then. Choose the stairs over the elevator, if possible, or use it to exercise by walking up and down a few times during your shift. Bust out some squats or stretch at your desk when you have a chance.

10. Beware of certain types of medication. Avoid prolonged use of sleeping pills and other sedatives which interfere with normal sleep patterns. Try to abstain from cold and allergy medications which have sleep-related side effects. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) has a stimulating effect and antihistamines (Dristan) can cause drowsiness.

Skipping meals will only slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and grumpy. Having a regular, daily routine with set feeding times can help with smoother metabolism.

11. Eat high protein foods (vegetables, peanut butter on crackers, fruit, etc.) to keep you alert. Eating sweets will make you sleepy, and best done at the end of your day. Avoid food which are high in iron at night (such as red meat) as those tend to disrupt the liver’s circadian rhythm, cause it to be out of sync and enhance glucose metabolism problems.

12 Energy drinks should be one of the firsts to be eliminated on your list as these are filled with sugar and other nasty ingredients. Replace those with natural food that can give you energy- an apple is a good substitute. If you drink coffee, try limiting your intake to one cup during work hours, and drink it four to five hours into your shift. Caffeine stays in your system for a long time and you may find it hard to sleep when you get home.

13 Get your vitamin D level checked regularly as working nights reduces your exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely widespread and linked to a vast range of health risks, including a number of cancers.

14. Get yearly blood tests such as fasting glucose to detect any risk of diabetes before it occurs.

Following these tips can make a massive difference on your overall health and disposition. Working at night may be inevitable, but you can still choose to supplement it with a healthy lifestyle. This may take a while to master but once you are eating right and sleeping well, your body will thank you for it.

About the Author

Samantha is the Recruitment Marketing Manager for Afni and brings a wealth of knowledge and tips for job seekers. She holds a bachelor's degree in public relations and marketing from Mount Saint Vincent University as well as a masters degree in digital marketing and advertising from Liberty University.