Do you work nights? Keep track of your health while working night hours or shift work
Working night shifts may not seem too challenging once your body gets used it, but it's actually very hard on your health and circadian rhythm. Night shifts are very common in healthcare, law enforcement and many other career fields. Many people find themselves spending their days recovering from working overnight, but there are ways to work a night shift while staying healthy. Remember, caring for your own health will help you care better for others and do your job more effectively!
Here are three tips to follow to keep your health and wellbeing in check while working nighttime hours.
Get some sunlight after rest during the day
Sunlight exposure is important during the day as natural light helps boost your body’s vitamin D supply which is crucial for gene and tissue regulation within the body. From a mental health standpoint, decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in serotonin levels which can lead to depression and anxiety. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Also remember to expose yourself to as much light as possible during your night shift as this will help with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Front-load caloric intake to daytime hours rather than overnight
Not every night shift schedule is the same, but a general rule to always follow is that eating heavy, fat saturated meals between midnight and 6AM or drinking caffeinated drinks simultaneously will have dangerous health impacts as you get less insulin secretion late at night and are more prone to weight gain. Remember, our body's internal clock likes routine and eating more during daytime hours will lead to less indigestion, bloating and nausea. Consume most of your food while the sun is shining, which means before and after your shift to best align with your body clock and normal digestion. If you are hungry throughout the night, eat easy digestible snacks like fruit or vegetables and make sure to stay hydrated.
Think about strategies to sleep well
Your body is telling you that it's time for bed but your “day” is just getting started. You are literally fighting against your circadian clock with shift work and good restorative sleep is very hard to come by. Follow a few habits to protect your sleep such as keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, use time after getting home to wind down and get to sleep and try getting a 5-7 hour block of sleep and then taking a short nap before work. Also, think about exercising first thing after coming home from work as exercise will boost mood, fight stress and can improve your endurance and concentration. If you are too tired, spend 30 minutes before work performing some sort of cardiovascular activity such as swimming or bike riding.