Night shift job? Tips to take care of your health

Human body is naturally wired to remain awake at daytime and fall asleep during the night. Our entire body system and functional rhythms are guided by the body clock which assigns definite slot of work time to individual body organs. This is how our body system performs various tasks and keeps us in the best of our health.  When this natural body rhythm or system is altered, our body faces special set of physical and mental challenges. People working in the night shifts bear the brunt of altering this natural body clock, jeopardizing their overall health and wellbeing. No one to be blamed for this, as the world has gone digital and liberal, connecting East to the West, necessitating people to work day and night. 

What happens when you are awake at night?

Circadian rhythm, which regulates our body temperature, digestion, heart rate, and other body functions, goes out of sync when we force ourselves to work against the nature. Well, the circadian rhythm of our body controls what and how much chemicals will be released inside the body. One of the factors stimulating this rhythm is the amount of light we see. At night, when the natural light is gone and we switch off the artificial lights, our brain releases a chemical known as “Melatonin” which induces sleep. When we forcefully remain awake at night, countering the effect of chemicals, it takes a toll on our health. That is why people working in the night shifts are more vulnerable to conditions like digestive disorders, sleep disorders, weight gain, heart diseases, stress, anxiety, and others. 

Life hacks for people with night shift job

If your work requires you to be awake at night, you should have some lifestyle management plan to rescue your body from the ill-effects of altering the body clock. Here are a few tips to help you adjust with the night shift job while taking the best care of your health.

#1. Restore the lost sleep 

Restoring the lost sleep is the only way out to feed your body with the rest it is deprived off during the night time. Since your body is not naturally programmed to sleep for long during the day, you might need to recreate a night time environment in your bedroom. Make sure your room is dark and your phone is switched off for an uninterrupted sleep. Use eye mask if you need more seclusion from the light and ear plugs if it is noisy outside. 

For better sleep,

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drink, and smoking before going to bed 
  • Eat something light to avoid hunger pangs that can disturb your sleep 
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature 
  • Notify your close friends and family members about your night shift job and “sleep-time” for uninterrupted sleep
  • Do not exercise or engage in exhaustive physical activity before your sleep time 

#2. Plan your diet  

Disruption of body rhythm throws the metabolism out of order, putting you at the risk of weight-related health issues. So, a healthy meal plan for night shift workers which is easy to digest and friendly to the metabolism is a must. It should also be designed in a way that supports your job by keeping you alert during the working hours and comfortable during the sleep hours.

  • Maintain a scheduled meal time and similar eating patterns 
  • Eat frequent light meals and avoid heavy meals which make you drowsy during the working-hours. 
  • Select foods that are easy to digest like salad, pasta, bowl of rice, soups, fruits and vegetables, upma, poha, idlis and the like.
  • Avoid heavy foods that are difficult to digest like processed food, frozen meats, fried items, oily snacks etc. 
  • Steer clear of sugary foods and beverages as they give instant energy boost followed by an energy dip, as well. You can have green tea and herbal tea to rejuvenate yourself. 
  • Keep hydrated with enough water, however, avoid fluids before your bedtime to stay safe from frequent washroom visits and enjoy a sound sleep. 

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#3 Watch your caffeine intake 

Caffeine is used as a stimulant to get an instant dose of alertness and wakefulness by many who need to kickstart their work, especially in the night shift. It is good to start off your shift with a cup of coffee as it will keep you free from drowsiness and lethargy. However, you need to have a planned and controlled approach towards coffee consumption to gain maximum benefits, instead of letting the coffee keep your brain stimulated even when you wish to switch off your wires and snooze for some time. 

  • Have a cup of coffee half-an-hour prior to when your shift begins 
  • Have small portions, preferably quarter mug of coffee during the working hours 
  • Avoid having coffee six hours prior to your bedtime 

#4. Know your medication 

Acute or chronic medical conditions necessitating the administration of certain medicines is quite common. If you are also on any kind of medication, it is a must for you to know whether the medicines affect your wakefulness and sleepiness. A few cold and allergy medicines can have sleep-related side effects. Medicines of other genre can have a stimulating effect too. Since you are working in the night shift, you should be well aware of the medicines you take.

  • If needed, ask your doctor to adjust the timing and dosage of the medicines that suit your shift work. 
  • For long-term medication to be used for chronic condition, keep checking with your doctor as when to stop them. 
  • Do not use sleeping pills to induce sleep during the day time; take doctor’s suggestion. 
  • Avoid self-medication with random OTC drugs, as they may interfere with your sleep pattern. 

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#5. Indulge in self-care 

The nature of your job altering your sleep and usual lifestyle, demands extra self-care for your good health. A few tips that can help you take better care of your mind and body are listed below:

  • While at work, keep stretching and moving your body
  • Exercise, at least, every other day after sleep
  • Avoid early morning exercise, as it may prevent you from falling asleep 
  • Enjoy music whenever free and set some time for meditation 
  • Take a warm bath before going to bed 

How your body responds to night shift job depends on your age, stamina and other factors. Similarly, the results of ways to counter the ill effects of sleepless nights also vary from person to person. Finding the right combination of techniques that suits you the best is important and you would gradually discover the set of hacks which works for you. However, if you discover some new symptoms in your body, then don’t hesitate or delay in seeking the help of a healthcare professional. Book appointment with your nearest doctor and get advised.  

Wish you a happy work life and a healthy body!