Night shifts can be difficult. Both for the morning person and the night owl, coping with night shifts can contribute to a range of health problems that, if not managed, may lead to lifetime illnesses and disabilities. 

Studies have shown that the sudden change in one’s circadian rhythm can interfere with the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Recent scientific evidence has concluded that sleep deprivation, coupled with poor eating habits and lack of physical activities, has resulted in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, chronic insomnia, and obesity.

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Note, however that although difficult and will take a lot of patience and self-control on the worker’s part, staying healthy while working on a night shift is not impossible. Making simple changes in your common habits can make a lot of difference in surviving the long hours of the night shift when your body thinks you should be sleeping.

1. Improve Sleeping Habits

We are all biologically programmed to sleep during the nighttime. Working on a night shift forces our body to fight its natural circadian rhythm. However, scheduling a regular sleeping pattern allows you to have a more restful daytime sleep. 

The truth of the matter is, regardless of what your shift is, you are supposed to have at least seven to nine hours of sleep each day to allow your body to replenish and restore its cells. You may use blackout curtains, earplugs, soft music, or a white noise machine to aid you in having a more restful sleep.

2. Go Easy on the Coffee

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Many night shift workers survive through the night by consuming large amounts of caffeine. Although a proven stimulant to perk you up for those sleepy hours, caffeine can do more harm than good if consumed in excessive amounts. From muscle spasms to gastrointestinal problems, caffeine increases the secretion of stomach acids, resulting in lifelong battles with gastroesophageal reflux. 

To stay awake, try consuming smaller amounts of coffee through the night. Do not drink that sugary coffee in one gulp. 

Also, make sure that you do not consume any caffeine-based drink at least six hours before going to sleep.

3. Watch What You Eat and Drink

Maintaining a healthy diet is as important as getting a good “night’s” sleep when you are working the long haul. Because the body’s natural balance is thrown out of track due to erratic working schedules, many night shift workers are more likely to develop metabolic problems.

Instead of getting heavy meals, try having several light meals throughout the night. Also, try to avoid sugary food and drinks as the body’s metabolic rate tends to slow down during the nighttime. 

Also, stay hydrated but make sure that you don’t load your body with fluids right before your bedtime so the call of nature will not disrupt your sleep.

4. Exercise

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Maintaining physical activities can help your body recover from working the long hours at night. Brisk walking, jogging or hiking are great activities for night time workers as it does not only help you stretch out those worn-out limbs but will also give you a semblance of normalcy in your daily patterns. The release of endorphins will help you get your blood pumping to keep you energized all throughout your shift.

5. Dress Properly

At nighttime, our core body temperature usually drops. On top of the office dress code, make sure that you’re dressed to stay warm and cozy. Investing in comfortable office wear can help fight fatigue and tiredness during the shift. 

6. Take Days Off

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There’s a reason why employment and labor laws allow workers to have days off. No matter what your shift is, self-care is always important. Doing things that we love for ourself helps reduce stress levels. By giving yourself the time off that you need and deserve, you become more energized, motivated and productive for your next shift.

There are so many things we can do during our days off. A simple task of making an entry in your journal, watching that favorite show or simply having a home-cooked meal can be as healing as taking a full-blown vacation. What is important is that you distance yourself from your workload and allow yourself to have a quiet moment to yourself.

Read more about Lifestyle on LFS Consulting.

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