Keeping your health on track during the night shift can be a challenge. However, if you stick to a routine and commit to a plan, your body will thank you!
There are definite advantages to working 2nd and 3rd shift, but do you know how to stay health-conscious when you work the night shift?
Prioritize Sleep for Health
You should aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but not all sleep is equal. It’s important to have good sleep hygiene. If you use your cell phone as an alarm clock, but sure to put it face-down on your bedside time as the blue light it emits can affect the quality of your sleep, and your health.
Light is a signal to your body that it’s time to wake up. This isn’t so helpful when you need to be sleeping during the daytime hours. If you need the TV to get to sleep, be sure to set a sleep timer so your TV turns off after a set amount of time. Many night shift workers also find it helpful to get blackout shades or curtains for their windows.
Watch Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Caffeine helps you get a jump start and get through the day. While you should limit your intake because it can be dehydrating and cause other issues, if you must drink it, be strategic. Have your cup of Joe earlier in your shift so it has a chance to get out of your system by the time you need to wind down and get to sleep.
Alcohol is at the other end of the spectrum. Be careful not to rely on it as a sleep aid. It actually has a rebound effect that will wake you up and it is dehydrating.
Speaking of hydration, water is your best friend. Just as a machine needs oil to work properly, your body requires water to function and maintain health. Keep a water bottle handy at all times if your employer allows one by your work station. If they don’t, make sure you’re drinking water every time you’re able to take a break.
Pack a Health-conscious Lunch
Besides your water, your body needs healthy food to run its best. Making sure you are eating healthy on the job requires some prior planning. Many people find it helpful to pack for the entire week so they aren’t tempted to eat fast food in a pinch.
Stick to Your Regular Health Schedule
Your buddy who works first shift wants to grab drinks. Or maybe you just want to spend more time with family and friends. Your first temptation might be to “flip flop” your schedule and get back to your normal routine during the week. This can be absolute havoc for your body.
As much as possible, you should go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day – regardless of if you work that day.
Get Some Exercise
Exercise is critical for our health, but it can be a real challenge for night workers. Experiment with exercising before work or after work. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, some people find a vigorous workout after work helps them release excess energy and wind down. For others, something more calming, like yoga, does the trick. And for others, they need the jolt in the morning to get ready for the day. The key here is to try different things and different times of the day to find what works for you.
Developing good habits around sleep, eating, exercising and routines will keep you healthy when you work the night shift. Be sure to follow these tips to keep your body up to the task.