How To Stay Healthy When Working Night Shift
If your job involves working night shift, then you probably know how difficult it can be to try and stay healthy, have a healthy mindset, as well as maintain a strong routine doing this type of work.
Problems with working night shifts
Our bodies are designed to be active during the day and rest at night.
When you’re working night shift, your body’s natural circadian rhythm can be disrupted, causing it to become out of sync. Your circadian clock is a small part of your brain that monitors how much light you see each moment. When the light begins to go away (at night time), your brain releases chemicals that give your body a signal to fall asleep. When the light becomes brighter, your brain releases chemicals that help to keep you awake.
Many functions of your body like your digestion, heart rate, and body temperature are all regulated by your circadian system.
Because your circadian rhythm controls how different chemicals are released within your body, this can cause health issues such as weight gain and heart disease when it is out of sync. Unfortunately, this is a risk that many night shift workers face due to the hours that they work.
How to stay healthy when working night shift
If you are regularly working night shift, it’s really important that you implement a healthy schedule that is easy to follow.
Here are some of my top tips on how to adjust to night shift and stay healthy while working during the night:
1. Get as much sleep as you can
This is an obvious one — get as much restful sleep as possible. Getting enough restful sleep is so important for your overall health, especially if you’re working night shift.
A common problem with working night shift is the risk of developing a sleep disorder or suffering from sleep deprivation.
Sleeping during the day can often lead to a disrupted rest — not only because your body isn’t naturally programmed to sleep then but also because of daytime distractions.
One way to potentially avoid this is to try and recreate a night-time atmosphere where possible. Make sure your room is as dark as possible, turn your phone off if you can and use an eye mask and earplugs if it tends to get noisy where you usually rest.
2. Exercise when you can
Exercising regularly, no matter what time of day, can help your overall health so much! It can be difficult to get into a regular routine but try to fit exercise in around your night shift schedule and stick to it.
On your rostered day off, try to create a schedule that you can stick to for the coming week. If you tend to feel exhausted after finishing your night shift, try to schedule your workouts in before your shift. Sticking to a set amount of workouts every week can do wonders for your energy levels, sleep habits and mental health.
My BBG programs are perfect for shift work because they are only 28-minutes long and you can get them done at home, anytime that suits you!
On days where you’re not able to squeeze a workout in, try to remain active in your daily activities. Instead of sitting down for long periods of time, try standing. Find stairs at work and walk up and down them a few times during your shift. Try to include squats or stretches when you have a chance. Even though these things might seem minor, they can all make a difference and may help you sleep better when you get home from working night shift.
3. Stock up on healthy foods
One of the problems of working night shift is feeling tired or hungry at random times. One way to set yourself up for success and stay healthy when working night shift is to make sure you have healthy foods readily available, both at home and at work.
If you are tired or grumpy, you may be more likely to reach for unhealthy options because it feels easier. By making sure you only have healthy (and tasty) food nearby, it will be easier for you to avoid reaching for anything.
4. Preparation is key
Preparing all of your healthy meals before working night shift is the key to staying healthy.
Meal prepping can be a cost-effective and easy way to make sure that you have all the meals ready that you need. The last thing you want to be doing is cooking when you are tired and hungry after working night shift so try to cook as much as you can beforehand. If you need some ideas, be sure to check out the recipes on my website.
It may also be a great idea to invest in a slow cooker! Put your favourite dish on while you are at work and then eat it straight away when you wake up.
5. Stop unhealthy snacking
When you’re working night shift, do you get sucked in by the vending machine at work? Or end up driving through 24-hour takeaways? If this is the case, you need to start bringing your own food to work!
Packing your own meals means you choose what to put in them, making it easier to eat healthier options. Pack a few small healthy late-night snacks rather than large meals as they may leave you feeling lethargic and heavy during your night shift.
Snacking on something healthy every few hours can help keep your metabolism going and help you feel full without overdoing it.
6. Stick to a schedule
Make an eating schedule that works for you and stick to it.
Keep in mind that your digestion slows down during the night so, if possible, try to maintain normal eating hours on the days that you’re working night shift. I know this is sometimes not possible but if you’re eating too much during night hours, it can then contribute to weight gain in the long-run, as well as poor sleep when you finish work for the night and can finally get some rest.
You should still be eating three main meals a day with snacks in between — try not to use your night shift as a time to eat massive meals. Try eating a healthy breakfast as soon as you get home, lunch when you wake up and dinner before you start work. Pack healthy snacks (with some protein in them) to take with you so you are energised for the night ahead.
Implementing a schedule and sticking to it each day can help your body get into a routine and regular eating times can help your metabolism to run more smoothly. It can be hard to adjust to night shift eating hours at first but try not to skip meals — this will only slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and grumpy.
7. Cut down the caffeine
The biggest killer of your health is constantly drinking coffee and energy drinks, especially throughout the night. If you are a sucker for energy drinks this is the first thing to cut down as they can be filled with sugar and nasty ingredients.
Replace them with natural energy-rich foods, such as an apple. If you drink coffee, try to limit yourself to one per shift. Also, try to drink it four to five hours before your shift is due to end, as caffeine stays in your system for a long time and you may find it hard to sleep when you get home.
You can work night shift and stay healthy!
I hope these tips have helped any ladies out there who are working night shift!
It can be hard, especially if you haven’t been working these hours for long, but you can adjust to night shift work AND stay healthy if you put good strategies in place and try to stick to them.
If you have any advice about working night shift, I would love to hear what helps you stay healthy! Share your tips in the comments below!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.