How to Work Night Shift and Stay Healthy?
Today’s work structure continues to change tremendously as each day passes. The most striking alterations are the extension of operations round the clock. The CDC opines that more than 15 million Americans work during nonstandard times – weekends, rotating shifts, evenings, and nights.
The projected growth in the number of employees that work in nonstandard times has raised concerns touching on family stability, work hazards, substance abuse, and health. Others that night shift workers grapple with include decreased attention, restlessness, fatigue, sleepiness while working, and disruption of the metabolic process of the body.
So is it possible to work night shift and remain healthy? Yes, it is very much possible! In this article, we’ll show you how to go about it.
Before looking at how to work night shift and stay healthy, let us first look at some of the hazard hazards that are related to rotating and night shifts …
Health Effects of Night Shifts
Working night shifts can take a toll on your health-wise in the following ways:
Weight Gain and Digestive Problems
According to a study published in this journal, night shift workers not only sleep fewer hours, but they also have a higher body mass index and higher weight compared to those that work during the day shift. Those that work at night have three times higher associated with obesity regardless of their gender and age.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, night shift workers also suffer from metabolic and gastrointestinal issues. Because chances are high that these employees grapple with insufficient sleep, they experience changes in their appetite and metabolism. This fact coupled with other biological factors results in poor diet and irregular eating habits.
Insufficient sleep is another health issue that many nighttime shift workers put up with. This study established that daytime sleep is less restful and lighter compared to night sleep. This means that even though nightshift workers might sleep the recommended 7-8 hours during the day, their sleep isn’t as deep and relaxing as it ought to be.
Because of their poor sleep quality, it is possible to suffer from stroke, heart diseases, and high blood pressure. Without adequate sleep, night workers’ coordination is thrown off. Some of them become depressed, anxious, and irritable.
Many other negative effects of sleep deficiency exist.
Other health issues that night shift workers fall victim for include:
- Heart attack risks according to this study
- Negative impact on mental health. Different studies such as this one associate working night shift with increased risks of mood disorders and depression
- Drastic changes in metabolism
- Suppression of melatonin
- Deprivation of essential vitamin D
9 Ways to Remain Healthy Even When Working Nightshift
Even though you are at risk of suffering from some health conditions such as the ones we have highlighted above, there is a way out of your graveyard shift.
Here’s how to go about it:
1. Be Choosy with Your Food
One of the things you need to do is to refrain from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods not only during but also before your nightshift. Of great importance to note is the role that diet plays in your mood and energy levels.
Although you might think that such meals provide you with energy bursts to face your shift and keep you alert/awake, you make your body crash afterward. The golden rule is to consume just one well-balanced meal during your nightshift.
You should start your day with a light dinner such as some veggies coupled with brown rice. You can also take some grilled chicken steak. The rule of thumb is to choose meals rich in fiber and protein for your dinner as they go miles to ensure you remain ‘fuller’ longer without necessarily making you feel to sleep.
A teaspoon of ghee is also recommended as it helps your body to balance the dryness. Oily foods are a no go zone as they’ll make you feel heavy and bloated. They can also make you gain weight.
If you feel like snacking settled for nuts. Some of the healthy options include almonds, makhana, and chana.
Contrary to what many nightshift workers do, you should keep off drinks with caffeine. Instead, drink fresh juices or water every half an hour or 40 minutes.
In summary, here are some healthy food choices for nighttime workers:
- Cottage cheese
- Fresh vegetable and fruit juices
- Seasonal vegetables and fruits
- Dry roasted nuts
- Wholegrain pieces of bread
- Sprouts and beans
- Sandwiches featuring low-fat meats with veggies
2. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
Cardiovascular health is one of the risks of those that work the night shift. Physical activities not only relieve stress and remedies of cardiovascular conditions it also boosts your concentration, energy, and mood. Whether you work day or night shift, you should exercise as much as you can if your schedule allows it. For the majority of night workers, exercises do not affect their sleep quality, health, and working negatively.
If you work the night shift, and you have to choose between sleep and exercise, the former should always take precedence.
Now that we have established that working out is necessary even for nightshift workers, the million-dollar question that then begs is, which is the best time to do it? Well, to be on the safe side according to this study, you should be doing heavy exercises a few hours before bedtime.
Completing a challenging strength and cardio circuit within one or so hours of going to sleep could negatively affect your sleep quality.
It also helps to workout outside.Also Read: Should I Workout after a Bad Night’s Sleep?
3. Manipulate Light Exposure
The body’s circadian rhythm dictates sleep. It’s simply a built-in mechanism that runs on a twenty-four clock cycling between wakefulness and sleep. Light is the major factor that influences the circadian rhythm.
You can profit from optimum natural light coverage by the time you wake up as well as before the beginning of your night shift to inform that it’s the beginning of the day as well as enhance awareness at night.
If you can get natural light the better. However, if it is impossible, you should consider using a lightbox like Lumie Vitamin L. In addition to being drug-free and non-invasive, this lightbox is a great solution for night shift workers who want to mimic the natural light. Its brightness is also adjustable as you can choose from a selection of four brightness levels available on the lamp.
Intermittent exposure is handy for resetting your body’s clock even if you do it using an artificial source.
4. Maintain a Regular Eating Habit
Working night shifts often disrupt your usual eating habits. By maintaining a regular eating pattern, you will create time for social interaction and a chance to interact with the family. Consuming snacks and meals on a frequent schedule ensures your digestive system remains in tip-top shape.
Inconsistent eating schedules cause the stomach to work overtime which will result in indigestion and bloating. With proper digestion, your stomach will not only feel comfortable, but you will also have an easy time sleeping when you go home. Have specific times for taking snacks, dinner, lunch, and breakfast. Stick to the set times.
When it comes to snacks, you can take them roughly three hours after your breakfast or lunch. It is prudent to stick to light but low-calorie snacks.
5. Take EPA and Antioxidants
According to this study, it is normal for night shift workers to a higher leukocyte tally. A higher leukocyte level means that they suffer from irritation that is related to metabolic syndrome as well as cardiovascular ailments. So what does one do in such a scenario? This is why antioxidants come in.
You can remedy the situation by increasing your intake of antioxidants by taking foods rich in the same such as beans, cacao, spices, herbs, berries, and green tea. Although inflammation upsurges the danger of some heart ailments, EPA – the omega-3 fatty acid is usually the solution against the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Many experts consider it cardio-protective.
To reap benefits, you can supplement with algae oil or high-dose EPA fish.
6. Revamp Your Bedroom
Nightshift workers will tell you that one of the issues they have to put up with is sleep deprivation. Poor sleep quality results in things such as daytime sleepiness, accidents at the workplace, or even challenges handling your day-to-day activities. The last thing you want is for your cognitive abilities to become impaired just because of insufficient sleep.
An effective way to ensure that you enjoy an uninterrupted and restful sleep at night is by making sure that your bedroom or the environment in your sleeping area is sleep-friendly.
You can achieve this goal by initiating several strategies. The first thing you need to ensure is that your bedroom is only for sleeping and sexual activities. Refrain from doing any other thing in this room.
Secondly, limit distraction and noise to other areas of the home but not the bedroom.
Thirdly, to enjoy better sleep after your nightshift, make sure that you limit the light that finds its way into the bedroom. Since you’ll be sleeping during the day, you can install dark curtains that make the room darker hence manipulating the body’s internal o’clock to think its nighttime thus triggering the release of sleep hormones.
Avoid using any gadgets in your bedroom. Anything that emits light is it electronic or otherwise should not be present in your bedroom.
If you are into design and all, you should design bedroom elements that are calming and soothing. Blue or green paint is known to bring a calming effect to the room. You should consider painting your bedroom in these colors.
It is also important that you declutter the entire place. Just have the basics inside the room. Always maintain a clean bedroom. A cleanroom will not only benefit you in terms of sleep but also your respiratory system.
The sleeping environment needs to be dust-free. You can achieve this by regular vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting. Other tips to spruce your bedroom and make it more sleep-friendly can be found in this article.
7. The Magical Melatonin
Having a difficult time coping with your new routine? Then you should consider popping the magical melatonin. Studies indicate that melatonin plays a huge role in promoting better sleep quality.
This natural supplement can be handy at helping you adapt to the graveyard shift. Just when you get home after your shift and have taken a shower, you can take one melatonin tablet. The body produces melatonin to not only trigger but also regulate it’s internal o’clock.
You can artificially introduce it into your body during the day, thereby shifting the clock to embrace a flipped circadian rhythm.Also Read: 5 Best Over the Counter Sleep Aids (And 3 Very Important Things to Know)
8. Find Ways to Keep Warm
Our bodies feature an in-built thermostat. The built-in thermostat raises core body temperature during the daytime and reduces at night. Normally, the body preserves bursts of energy when we sleep with main body temperatures reducing to a minimum between 2 am – 6 am.
9. Take Short Naps During Breaks
During day shifts, taking naps during breaks might not be necessary. The same cannot be said of working during the night shift.
When you take a nap during your shift at night, you can increase your safety and energy levels. A quick 20-30 minutes’ nap, if allowed by your management, can be handy at helping to restore your depleted energy levels. In addition to that, you will also be able to be vigilant and alert through the night.
While at it, the golden rule is to keep your naps at no more than 45 minutes. If you overdo it, you will be at risk of altering your deep-sleep cycle. What happens when you force yourself to be up during this period, chances are high that you’ll not feel refreshed. Moreover, feeling alert again will take a longer time.More You May Also Like:
- How can you get away with only 2 hours of sleep per day? Learn how to start the sleep cycle that Da Vinci used.
- Want to know the best time to sleep/wake up, check this free tool from Terry Cralle.