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With the rising demand for 24-hour services in a fast-paced society, night shifts are essential. Having to be awake at night and still having to cater to the social demands of the day, could significantly affect and disturb your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is your own internal body clock which determines stages of cellular and organ activity of the body for sleeping and waking. When out of sync, your brain could affect your body negatively.
Here are tips to stay healthy while working the night shift:
1. Natural Treatments and Techniques
Bananas, barley, rice, ginger, and corn are some of the food which is high in melatonin and can help you overcome shift changes at work or reset your internal body clock to prevent insomnia. Taking Vitamin C, D, and E can also help prevent health problems that arise due to working during the night shift. Instead of taking food from the vending machine, stay healthy by making sure that you have fruits as snacks available during your shift.
Remember that your digestion slows down at night. For your diet, avoid taking meals during the shift itself. Try having breakfast at once when you get home, lunch once you wake up, and dinner before your shift starts. Sticking to an eating schedule can help your metabolism and digestion run more smoothly. By doing this, you will also feel less tired, groggy, and grumpy.
2. Exercise Regularly as Much as You Can
Exercising six days a week for 20 to 30 minutes can help maintain the circadian rhythm in your body. Exercise also increases oxygen levels, increases blood flow, and reduces stress. Try to exercise regularly no matter which time of the day to improve your overall help. Very simple exercises that you can do especially if you have a tight schedule are the following:
- Do 20 minutes on a desk cycle (picture above)
- Standing 5 minutes every hour
- Walking up and down the stairs for five rounds every now and then during your shift
- Do squats or stretches beside your desk
- Jog for 20 minutes
- Do some aerobics for 20 minutes
- Do flow yoga for 20 minutes
- These exercises might look very simple and minor, but they can make all the difference in your health and help you sleep better as well.
3. Apply Strategic Napping
One of the common problems with working the night shift is the possibility of developing a sleep disorder. To prevent this and in an effort to cope with the mismatched occupational and social demands when working the night shift, you can apply strategic napping. Naps refresh, replenish, and recharge a person.
For night shift workers, taking a short nap before the start of the shift is most likely to result in the maximum benefit as it avoids sleep inertia, which is the grogginess or sleepiness that could follow a long nap. Taking naps can also relieve sleepiness during the daytime.
An added trick to avoid sleep disorders is to try and recreate a night-time atmosphere by making sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible. This way, your body will be programmed to shift the circadian rhythm.
4. Apply Light Therapy
You can reset your circadian rhythm by using a bright light or blue light. The timing of your circadian rhythm can either be delayed or advanced depending on the time of exposure. Exposure to light for four hours at the beginning of the shift is capable to cause a delay in your circadian rhythm. Practicing this routine, you can train your body to think that it’s truly day time during your shift and night time after your shift. This will result in your body excreting the correct amount of chemicals and hormones. In addition to that, your body clock will be in sync, and you can also have more energy and squeeze in some extra time for exercise.
5. Taking Modafinil
If you want to take this drug, you should ask a doctor for information. Modafinil, a Food and Drug Administration or FDA approved medication, is sometimes prescribed to people with sleeping disorders. This prescription drug promotes wakefulness, alertness, and vigilance by stimulating the brain. The recommended intake of Modafinil is 200mg once daily and should not exceed 400mg.
It should also be taken an hour before work for night shift workers. This way, your body will be trained to shift the body clock and prevent it from releasing chemicals that can harm your body. If you’re not comfortable with taking any medication, you can just substitute with taking hot tea instead.
6. Prepare Your Meals Beforehand
Night shift workers must also avoid food high in fat and sugar to prevent digestion problems. Meal prepping is one of the most effective ways to make sure that you have healthy meals at work. An easy way to prepare these meals is having a slow cooker. You can just pop in your favorite dish on it while you are at home and bring it to work the next day
7. Cut Down on Your Caffeine Intake
Understandably, in an industry and environment like this, you will veer into drinking coffee or energy drinks to keep your energy up. However, these drinks contain lots of sugar and nasty ingredients that can potentially harm your body. Instead of drinking coffee, replace them with natural energy-rich food like apples.
If you have to drink coffee, limit it to one per shift. Another reminder is not to drink it an hour or less before your shift ends so that you don’t find it hard to sleep after your shift is over.
There are no specific treatments to prevent disorders that come with working a night shift completely, but medications and techniques are available to help you cope with the ill of the lifestyle you have to live with by force or by choice. Night shift workers must take the proper steps such as eating the right food, taking vitamins, monitoring their sleep, and exercising to help maintain their health.
This article was last updated on March 14, 2022 .