Organizations that work with international clients require night shifts. Working night shifts can be tormenting, but it can be fun as well. It’s a different experience, and everyone must experience it once in their lifetime.
However, night shifts can increase the risk of health conditions, like obesity and heart issues. Fortunately, there are many ways you can support your body and health while working night shifts. Let’s jump into some easy ways you can work night shifts and stay healthy.
Support your sleep pattern
One of the biggest challenges you are likely to face when working night shifts is irregular sleep patterns. Our body has its own natural clock, which is programmed to make you feel sleepy at night. When you suddenly start working night shifts, your body’s clock might take some time to adjust. This can leave your body out of sync, and you may face sleep issues, like chronic sleep deprivation.
Not sleeping well can lead to potential problems, such as;
Increased risk of accidents when driving
Impaired neurobehavioral performance
Here’s how you can support your sleep pattern and adjust it according to your sleep.
Low-dose, high-frequency caffeine consumption
Caffeine is a cognitive enhancer and can counteract the feelings of sleepiness. For the best results, consume small amounts of caffeine at regular intervals during your shift. The ideal dosage is around 20mg of caffeine per hour. However, don’t take caffeine towards the end of your shift. It can affect people differently, so it’s better to stop the consumption of caffeine at least 6 hours before your shift ends.
Caffeine can have a diuretic effect on your body and cause dehydration. So, make sure to pair your caffeine intake with electrolyte-containing fluids to support hydration. These drinks include tomato juice, orange juice, mineral water, etc.
Reset your body clock
Light is a potent stimulus to reset your body clock. Since your body clock affects your natural sleep, it is essential to reset it as per your shift patterns. Exposure to natural light can enhance your alertness during the night time. Before starting your shift, spend some time outside when there’s the sun or natural light. If natural light is not available, you can also use a lightbox.
Working night shifts can badly affect the sleep hormone melatonin. Night shift workers tend to have lower concentrations of melatonin, which can cause sleep deprivation. To counter these effects, make your room completely dark when you’re trying to sleep during the day. You can do this by using curtains or blackout blinds. Wearing blue-light blocking glasses towards the later half of your shift can also improve your melatonin levels.
Nap in between your shift, but don’t sleep
Feeling sleepy when working night shifts is common. This phenomenon, however, can impact your work performance. To avoid this, you can take a short nap during your break. A nap between 2 and 3 am ideal as this is the time when your body craves sleep the most. A 30-minute nap is ideal, but don’t extend it to more than 40 minutes.
Working night shifts can cause various health problems, like weight gain, obesity, stomach problems, etc. However, you can manage your health if you maintain a healthy diet. Here’s a quick look into the ideal diet for night shift workers.
Working night shifts can alter your glucose metabolism and cause impaired glucose tolerance. Thus, stick to low glycemic load (GL) foods during your shift, as these foods are less likely to increase your glucose levels.
Some low-GL goods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. On the other hand, limit or eliminate the consumption of refined grains, trans fats, or high-sugar fruits.
Stick to your regular eating pattern
Night shifts can often disrupt your eating habits. But you should focus on sticking to your regular diet. Eat a balanced, hearty meal before the start of your shift to feel energetic during work. Also, ensure a regular intake of healthy snacks throughout the shift to maintain energy levels.
Avoid unhealthy foods
Unhealthy snacks, such as sugary, processed foods can be easily available during night shifts. Eating such foods can lead to multiple health risks. First, they’re processed and high in sugar, so they’re likely to increase your weight. Second, they’re difficult to digest, And thirdly, they’ve no nutritional value. So, they’ll make you feel full and sleepy, which will affect your performance at work.
Some healthy choices to support your night shift are:
Chopped fruits and vegetables, such as celery and cottage cheese, apple and hazelnut butter, etc.
Hearty vegetables and lentil soups
Grilled meat and vegetable kebabs
Eat antioxidant-rich foods
Nightshift workers are prone to inflammation and cardiovascular issues. These conditions can be caused by free radical damage to cells. You can mitigate this effect by consuming antioxidant-rich foods, like berries, green tea, spices, cacao, etc. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, can also protect you from inflammation.
If you’re working in the night shift for the first time, it might seem like a 360-degree lifestyle change. Here are a few lifestyle changes to make if you’re working a graveyard shift.
Exercise before your shift
As discussed, night shift workers are prone to cardiovascular issues. To reduce this risk, consider exercising before your shift instead of doing it after your shift ends. Besides, exercising outdoors before your shift will also provide daylight exposure, which can help reset your body clock. And if your workplace has a gym, taking a break in between your shift to exercise can be beneficial.
The human body has a natural thermostat, which increases body temperature during the day and decreases during the night. The temperature of your body is lowest between 2 am, and 6 am. However, you are most likely to finish your shift during this time. So, make sure to carry some warm clothes with you.
Find a routine
Working in a night shift means a new routine – you’ll sleep in the morning, wake up in the evening, and go to work in the night. To make sure your mind and body adapt to your new lifestyle, find a routine, and stick to it. Fix a time to sleep, wakeup, and have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll also need to change your morning routine. So, figure out a routine that works well for you.
The key to working night shifts and staying healthy is to adapt your body to your new routine. Make sure you adjust your body clock and sleep patterns by getting enough natural light before work. Also, eat healthily and maintain a healthy routine to avoid potential health risks.