Help! Night Shift Is Wreaking Havoc on My Health!

You've got the graveyard shifts, so now how do you stay healthy and keep up with your fitness routine when your life is quite literally flipped on its head?! 

Unfortunately for night shift workers there is a disturbance to your circadian rhythm (our natural sleep-wake cycle). Disruptions to this rhythm lead to changes in your sleep, eating behaviours and even health risks, not to mention maintaining healthy habits is just that little bit harder. However, it is not impossible to still lead a healthy life and work night shifts. Follow these 10 tips below be be your healthiest night shift self.  Not only will you see long term health benefits but you'll find you have a lot more energy!

  1. Eat your main meal before start - This allows you to have a meal with the family and keeps your body in tune by having a meal at a “regular” mealtime. Choose a meal that is high in fibre, high protein and contains some complex carbohydrates. Try: homemade burrito bowls, stir fry meat/tofu with vegetables and brown rice, grilled salmon with vegetables and sweet potato chips.

  2. Healthy Snacks – Light snacks during the night rather than a main meal. Your body’s natural hormone and digestive rhythm assumes you should be sleeping, so you want to avoid a big meal during the night. Take carrot, celery and capsicum sticks with hummus, unsalted nuts, greek yoghurt with berries and only eat when you are hungry. Avoid just grazing or snacking on foods to kill time. 

  3. Bring your own – don’t rely on vending machines, cafeteria food or what you find lying around in the tea room. Typically it isn’t a healthy choice. Always bring your own snacks so you don’t have to go near the vending machines.

  4. Fluids – Keep hydrated throughout the night. The first signs of dehydration can be lethargy and fatigue, what do you do to combat fatigue – reach for the sweets. Keeping hydrated will not only make you feel better but also may make it easier to avoid temptations.

  5. Move – If you get a break during the night, get moving, even if you just do a few laps up and down the fire escape. Keeping moving will keep you awake and active.

  6. Skip the sweets – Night shifts desks are notorious for bags chocolates and lollies. When you are tired, you look for a pick me up and many go for sugar. You need a Plan B! Keep the sweets out of sight (if possible), drink plenty of water, think about if you are truly hungry versus tired.

  7. Light breakfast after work –As soon as possible after finishing work have a light ‘breakfast’. You don’t want anything too heavy as sleep is just around the corner. A small protein smoothie or some overnight oats are a great option here. Fun Fact - Carbs before bed can actually help you to fall asleep!

  8. Limit caffeine - Yes you probably will need it at the beginning of the shift but avoid all caffeine for the 6 hours before you plan to sleep. 

  9. Sunglass - don’t walk outside without these on!! The morning light will release chemicals and hormone signals to help you wake up, not what you need when you’re about to sleep.

  10. Sleep – The most important part. As a shift worker you need quality sleep! Make your room as dark as possible, use eye masks if necessary and relatively cool too. Absolutely no phone, ipad or tv before bed and do all in your power to minimise interruptions during your sleep.