How Night Shift Workers Can Better Take Care of Their Health

People have heard about eight hours being the healthy amount of sleep a person should have. This sounds like a normalized habit passed down to generations, but there’s scientific reasoning behind this. Like any other living organism, humans have a circadian rhythm or an around-the-clock physical, mental, and behavioral pattern they follow. It is based on their natural response to light and dark of night and day.

That being said, an eight-hour sleep sounds like a routine people can stick to. This is true until life has bombarded them with responsibilities and deadlines. Unless you have multitasking skills that make you squeeze in as many tasks as possible, proving the daily nine-to-five to be sufficient is a relatable challenge for anyone. That includes dedicating the rest of your day to personal matters, such as socialization and rest.

Now, imagine how more difficult it is for those who shifted to a night job. People have circadian rhythms that regulate their energy levels, blood pressure, and metabolism and place them in a rest mode in the darker hours of the day. It may take some time for their bodies to adjust their sleeping hours, among other things. Sometimes, even not at all since they are built to work in the day.

Are you one of those who have been working night shifts? If so, you might notice changes in your body that night shift workers are most likely to experience. Irritable bowels, sudden weight gain, and a general feeling of fatigue are expected as disrupting bodily functions naturally poses health risks.

No matter how people disregard them, these changes are only the tip of the iceberg of more risks. If you don’t proactively care for your health as you continue working night shifts, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are just some that can impact you in the long term. So, if the daily grind requires you to work the odd hours of the night, you should learn some pointers to cope health-wise and, consequently, job performance-wise.

Work Out a Sleep Schedule

Say, you need to work 12 to 8 A.M., and that gives you 4 to 11 P.M. at least and 3 to 11 P.M. to sleep at most. That’s only if you’re working from home and you’re spared from the daily commute. If that’s the case, you have to be asleep when it’s still bright out, which is difficult yet again because of our circadian rhythm.

To facilitate restful sleep, keep your window blinds shut, keep all gadgets away, and proof your room from external noise if possible. If you find any of the following comfortable, you can do any of the following:

  • Wear an eye mask
  • Diffuse aromatherapeutic scents
  • Meditate
  • Perform a breathing exercise as you lay flat on your bed

Drowsiness usually hits around 4 or 5 A.M., and so it is best to get a lot of work by then so you could catch some snoozes. Then, perform the rest of your tasks after the quick power nap.


Adjust Your Eating Patterns

As your metabolism is generally slow in the evening, but you still have to fill your tummy for your brain to function for work, it’s always best to follow a regular eating schedule, and it’s safe to assume that a single meal for the eight-hour shift is needed. One thing worth noting is you have to eat protein-rich fruits and vegetables like apricots, cherries, kiwi, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli to help you stay attentive. Protein bars will make for good snack options working at night too.

Remember, this is no longer just a once-a-month all-nighter you used to do in college and when you were young. This means curbing or doing away with impulse snacking, especially on sweets and other junk food. That includes overindulging in liquor as alcohol messes up your sleeping pattern. You also need to cut down on caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea as they are diuretic. That causes you to pee more and lose more water than needed and, in turn, keeps you from absorbing nutrients like iron that promote restful sleep. In this case, you’ll have to take supplements like chewable iron ones.

Also, you should not go to bed with an empty stomach as hunger keeps you from sleeping. If you haven’t gotten used to having a meal before sleeping, drink a glass of warm milk that promotes sleep.

Exercise and Look Out for Your Health

Find a day or two in a week to exercise. Not only does it help you become more alert at work, but it also gets your heart and lungs pumping and your limbs moving to maintain their optimal functions. During your shift, take brief breaks to stretch and exercise and find that it gives you an instant mood boost.

Working night shifts can be isolating and, in turn, affect your mental well-being. Being such, find ways to still connect with your family and friends despite the time difference. You have the virtual option that is social media. You can also agree with housemates on a common time to bond just before you sleep and just before they go to work. Remember, it’s tough as it is, so you need a support group more than ever.

Night shift workers deserve all the credit from their companies. It is tough but always manageable. Suppose you’re one of those who work in the wee hours of the night and don’t see the possibility of your work arrangement changing soon. In that case, better invest in a healthy lifestyle that will help you endure this unusual arrangement for a long time.

About the Author

Scroll to Top