Night shift workers are probably losing their good health faster than you can say “Hello”. Long hours of work along with a hectic work schedule, have put an increasing number of young professionals burning the midnight oil at risk of major health disorders. Typically, shift workers experience irregular appetites, weight gain or loss, and high rates of gastro-intestinal disorders. Some possible reasons for this are too much caffeine, high-fat snacking, infrequent eating during the day, over- eating at night and a lack of exercise. Minor complaints range from premature graying, hair loss, loss of sleep, digestive diseases and stress.
Trying to maintain a healthy diet can be challenging for those who work the night shift. This is due to the disruption in the natural rhythms of the human body. We all have cycles for daylight and evening hours that help to guide us throughout our daily routine. These rhythms can change drastically along with work schedules. In order for late shift workers to maintain healthy eating patterns, it is necessary to adopt certain strategies and tips so that they may be productive at work, without sacrificing their health.
A night shift worker usually has to adapt sleephours to accommodate working hours. Sometimes itis difficult to maintain stamina, which causes anight worker to use caffeinated beverages in orderto stay awake. This can produce a vicious cycle ofsleep deprivation, as the body becomes moreaccustomed to having caffeine in order to function.Lack of sleep can cause other deficiencies, whichtrigger hormonal imbalances and bad eatinghabits, making one more prone to battleoverweight issues. Therefore, it is important toensure that getting adequate sleep is made apriority and maintained regularly. Avoiding caffeinefive or more hours before bedtime is advisable, aswell as having a light snack before bedtime toalleviate hunger and improve sleep quality.
Late shift workers can have more delicatedigestive systems. As a result, they canbecome more sensitive to foods that aregenerally tolerated when eaten during thedaytime. It is a good idea to avoid snack foodsthat are fried or heavy in salt and fat.Sometimes, healthy foods such ascucumbers, cabbage, onions and some spicyfoods may also need to be avoided late atnight. Consuming caffeine and other foods thatcan cause indigestion or heartburn should belessened or eliminated.
It is advisable that night and shift workers inparticular make every effort to exercisebefore, during or after the work shift. Doingthis can assist in maintaining overall health andalertness. Taking breaks as part of the shift canpromote feeling more energized and make iteasier to confront working during later hours.
Keeping healthy foods at home and bringing them prepared and ready to consume during a late night shift can help to consume less fat and calories. It can also serve to save time and money, as well. Eating smaller meals that are balanced with low healthy fat and dairy, high protein, plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains before 1 a.m. is a good strategy. For ease, use leftovers to assemble healthy on-the-go meals. Meal substitutes of Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice dinners include low-fat, low-sodium options to which fruit and yogurt can be added for a complete and satisfying meal. Healthy snack ideas can include vegetables, fruit, cottage cheese, whole wheat crackers, cheese sticks, yogurt, popcorn.
Itmay take a few weeks to get used to working the night shift. Going from the day shift to the night shift can be a difficult transition. The bodys circadian sleep rhythm programs you to be active during daylight hours and rest at night. If not executed properly, switching to the night shift can cause stress, high blood pressure, poor eating habits and exhaustion. Follow a few tips to allow for a smooth transition.
Give your body fuel. Eat healthy, energy- boosting foods before your shift, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks, as you dont want to become dependent on them or suffer from an energy crash later in your shift. Remain hydrated with water. Reverse your eating schedule. Although youll be used to eating your smallest meal in the morning and your largest meal at night, it will be difficult to work after eating a huge dinner. Eat your largest meal after leaving work in the morning, and your smallest meal just before going to work.
Keep energized. Even though its tempting to allow your day to revolve around eating, sleeping and working, make sure you exercise as much as possible. This will help your stress level remain low, and provide you with energy throughout the day. If possible, exercise during a break at work if youre feeling sluggish. Get your rest when you need to. Studies show that 15- to 20-minute naps can be greatly beneficial for restoring energy. Instead of drinking coffee on a coffee break, take a short nap.
Dont go right to sleep after work. Model your day as much as possible after those who work the day shift. Day shift workers typically take time to unwind after work before going to bed. Take a few hours to run errands, spend time with your family, eat a healthy meal or catch up on reading before heading off to sleep. When its time to sleep, shut out the day. Youll benefit from convincing your body its actually sleeping during the night hours. Keep your sleeping quarters as dark as possible; draw the blinds and close the drapes, wear a sleeping blindfold and wear earplugs to shut out noises. Keep to your night shift schedule on your days off. You may seem like an oddball, sitting up all night with nothing to do, but it will be exhausting and stressful to your body to alternate between a day shift and night shift lifestyle.
Circadian Cycle A night shift worker essentially reverses their circadian cycle, aiming to sleep during the daytime hours and work during the nighttime hours. This causes a variety of metabolic and hormonal problems, including heart disease, diabetes and depression. Lack of Sunlight Sunlight helps to regulate blood flow to the brain, along with levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body. Night shift workers commonly do not experience much sunlight, which often results in unbalanced levels of these hormones, resulting in depression, anxiety, and loss of energy.
Serotonin An article in the August 2007 issue of the SLEEP journal noted that people who work the night shift have significantly lower levels of the chemical serotonin. Low amounts of serotonin greatly increase the risk of depression. Insomnia As they adjust into their new schedules, workers on the night shift commonly experience bouts of insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, frequent insomnia is a precursor for depression; the workers feel as though they will never adjust to the new schedule and feel exhausted during most of their waking hours. Isolation Working the night shift commonly causes the employee to miss family functions and social activities. This lack of socialization and quality family time can result in feelings of guilt, loneliness and depression.
Women at risk of developing Breast Cancer Disturbances to the sleep-wake cycle may increase cancer risk by affecting melatonin levels, in reality it is difficult to disentangle shift work from many other lifestyle factors among people with cancer. It is believed that shift work effects the body clock and the release of the hormone melatonin. At night, melatonin is released and helps regulate sleep patterns. Imbalanced Melatonin also lowers the level of the female hormone oestrogen, a development which is known to encourage the growth of certain cancers. If a person spends too long in artificial light, such as a shift worker, researchers believe this could affect the amount of melatonin released, therefore increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Rotating shift work ups Diabetes risk in women Working women, who are subjected to rotating schedules, comprising of three or more night shifts per month are more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes risk compared to women who only work on day or evening shifts, a new study has revealed. The study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), found that extended years of rotating night shift work was associated with weight gain, which causes increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Maintain a healthy diet. A diet balanced of carbohydrates, protein, and omega-3 fats (found in walnuts and coldwater fish such as herring) will assist in maintaining energy throughout the night. Avoid spicy and high-fat foods at night. At night, the bodys digestive system slows down and does not easily digest heavy foods. Adjusting your eating habits will increase energy levels. Be conscious of calorie intake. Third shift forces you to eat meals at odd times, and extra meals are eaten because of family meals in the morning or at dinnertime. Third-shift workers are often awake for longer periods of time than people who work a traditional shift. If you know that you will be awake for a long period of time, eat smaller calorie meals to space your caloric intake out throughout the day.
Prepare snacks at home to bring to work. Yogurt, fruit and fresh vegetables will help you avoid readily available vending machine snacks that are high in fat and calories. Space snacks out between each meal so your bloods natural sugar level does not dive between meals. Adjust your eating pattern to your working hours. Eat when you wake up and space out meals as if on a day shift schedule. Limit caffeine intake. Drinking to much coffee, pop or other caffeinated beverages will affect your ability to sleep.
Breakfast Although most of us eat breakfast before we start our work day, night shift workers may benefit more by having breakfast shortly after their work day has ended. If you get off from work during the morning hours, such as 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., this would be the best time to have your breakfast. This could consist of a bowl of high-fiber cereal, two slices of toast with butter and jam, and a glass of juice. You can also vary this from time to time by having two eggs and three slices of bacon with your toast.
Lunch After sleeping during the day, you lunch time may actually be around 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the evening. Lunch may normally be considered a small meal, but this should be your largest meal of the day. By having a larger meal before you go to work, you will have more energy to work those long hours at night. This meal could include any variety of cooked meats such as baked chicken, beef, pork or fish. You will also need to have vegetables on the side. Breads such as dinner rolls or whole wheat sliced bread can give you extra energy as well. This can also be a good time to enjoy a nice light dessert with your meal.
Dinner Since you will be having your dinner on your lunch break at work, it will most likely be a lighter meal. You may be packing your lunch to work and having your dinner around 10 p.m. to midnight. A healthy dinner to enjoy may include a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, some fresh, raw fruits or vegetables, and a bag of low-calorie cookies. You may occasionally want to vary this by taking a microwave dinner, a slice of bread, and a piece of fruit for your dinner meal.
Snacks To keep your energy level up while working those long nights, it is also important to have a healthy snack between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Examples of foods to enjoy are an apple, a few grapes, celery sticks with peanut butter, or low-salt air-popped popcorn.
We can see here that there is an increasedtrend with working in night shifts, which isleading to a lot of stress & health relatedissues amongst people who are unaware ofits ill effects in the longer run.Therefore, firms employing people for nightshifts must employ proper nutritionists tomaintain proper health of its employees.