Staying Healthy When You Work the Night Shift

Reviewed May 25, 2017

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Summary

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Make your living space as silent as possible.
  • Create a comfortable, sleep-promoting bedroom.
  • Eat well, exercise, and avoid sleeping pills.

If you work nights, you know that staying healthy isn’t easy. The night-shift worker is generally out of sync with circadian rhythms, which stimulate the body’s natural instinct to be awake in the day and sleep at night. Research has shown that when our circadian rhythms are off balance, alertness, concentration, and overall health are affected.

Sleep is crucial

Those who work the night shift know that proper sleep is their best friend…and the hardest thing to find. Here are some suggestions:

Keep a regular schedule

Some people like to use the morning energy surge to stay up and get things done before sleeping. Others prefer to sleep as soon as the shift is over. Whatever your preference, it can be challenging to find a good “night’s sleep” when the rest of the world is saying a bright “good morning” to you. The key is to set a regular schedule and stick to it.

Strive for the sound of silence

Reorganize your living space with silence in mind. Try:

  • Carpeting. It should be thick enough to muffle the sound of tiny feet or paws.
  • Acoustic tiles. These can be particularly effective if you live in an apartment.
  • Stereo and TV headphones. Keep all media a private experience.
  • Storm or soundproof windows. They help keep the outside out.
  • Phones. Turn off the ringer, or the phone itself.

You also might try a “white noise” machine, with standard or varied soothing sounds, to block outside noise.

Make your bedroom your sleep room

Your bedroom’s primary function is to promote sleep. Don’t read or watch TV there. Consider all aspects of your bedroom. Are they sleep conducive?

  • Mattress. Take time to find a comfortable and good fit.
  • Bedding. High-quality cotton provides the best comfort and breathability.
  • Shades and curtains. Make sure they block out light.

You can tape aluminum foil over the windows to fully block out light.

Good eating habits are key

Studies have shown that night-shift workers have a higher rate of ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders than day workers. Judith Wurtman, M.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests shift workers pay special attention to their dietary habits:

  • Eat carbohydrates in the morning. They promote sleep.
  • Eat proteins at night. They provide energy and stimulate alertness.
  • Eat smaller portions and more frequent, smaller meals. These digest easily.
  • Select “easy to digest” foods such as yogurt, mild soup, and rice.
  • Prepare food at home. Too often vending machines offer the only food available to night-shift workers.
  • Avoid fried foods. They stay in the stomach longer and are hard to digest.

Stay fit

Whatever you choose to do (run, walk, garden, swim, bike) staying fit is essential to staying healthy, particularly when you work the night shift. Budget a specific amount of time and stick to it. Do your workout at the same time each day.

Stay away from the medicine cabinet

They can be tempting at times, but those sleep aids in your medicine cabinet are nothing more than a quick fix. Sleeping pills have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. The jury is still out on melatonin, with countries such as the United Kingdom banning over-the-counter sales until clinical tests prove its safety. 

Source: "Sleep Secrets for Shift Workers and People With Off-Beat Schedules" by David Morgan, Whole Person Associates, 1996; "The Twenty Four Hour Society" by Moore-Ede, Martin. Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1993; The Impact of Shift and Night Work on Health, "Applied Ergonomics," by Costa, Giovanni. 27(1):9-16; The Prevalence and Health Impact of Shift Work by Gordon, Nancy. American Journal of Public Health, 76(10):1225-1228.

Summary

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Make your living space as silent as possible.
  • Create a comfortable, sleep-promoting bedroom.
  • Eat well, exercise, and avoid sleeping pills.

If you work nights, you know that staying healthy isn’t easy. The night-shift worker is generally out of sync with circadian rhythms, which stimulate the body’s natural instinct to be awake in the day and sleep at night. Research has shown that when our circadian rhythms are off balance, alertness, concentration, and overall health are affected.

Sleep is crucial

Those who work the night shift know that proper sleep is their best friend…and the hardest thing to find. Here are some suggestions:

Keep a regular schedule

Some people like to use the morning energy surge to stay up and get things done before sleeping. Others prefer to sleep as soon as the shift is over. Whatever your preference, it can be challenging to find a good “night’s sleep” when the rest of the world is saying a bright “good morning” to you. The key is to set a regular schedule and stick to it.

Strive for the sound of silence

Reorganize your living space with silence in mind. Try:

  • Carpeting. It should be thick enough to muffle the sound of tiny feet or paws.
  • Acoustic tiles. These can be particularly effective if you live in an apartment.
  • Stereo and TV headphones. Keep all media a private experience.
  • Storm or soundproof windows. They help keep the outside out.
  • Phones. Turn off the ringer, or the phone itself.

You also might try a “white noise” machine, with standard or varied soothing sounds, to block outside noise.

Make your bedroom your sleep room

Your bedroom’s primary function is to promote sleep. Don’t read or watch TV there. Consider all aspects of your bedroom. Are they sleep conducive?

  • Mattress. Take time to find a comfortable and good fit.
  • Bedding. High-quality cotton provides the best comfort and breathability.
  • Shades and curtains. Make sure they block out light.

You can tape aluminum foil over the windows to fully block out light.

Good eating habits are key

Studies have shown that night-shift workers have a higher rate of ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders than day workers. Judith Wurtman, M.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests shift workers pay special attention to their dietary habits:

  • Eat carbohydrates in the morning. They promote sleep.
  • Eat proteins at night. They provide energy and stimulate alertness.
  • Eat smaller portions and more frequent, smaller meals. These digest easily.
  • Select “easy to digest” foods such as yogurt, mild soup, and rice.
  • Prepare food at home. Too often vending machines offer the only food available to night-shift workers.
  • Avoid fried foods. They stay in the stomach longer and are hard to digest.

Stay fit

Whatever you choose to do (run, walk, garden, swim, bike) staying fit is essential to staying healthy, particularly when you work the night shift. Budget a specific amount of time and stick to it. Do your workout at the same time each day.

Stay away from the medicine cabinet

They can be tempting at times, but those sleep aids in your medicine cabinet are nothing more than a quick fix. Sleeping pills have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. The jury is still out on melatonin, with countries such as the United Kingdom banning over-the-counter sales until clinical tests prove its safety. 

Source: "Sleep Secrets for Shift Workers and People With Off-Beat Schedules" by David Morgan, Whole Person Associates, 1996; "The Twenty Four Hour Society" by Moore-Ede, Martin. Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1993; The Impact of Shift and Night Work on Health, "Applied Ergonomics," by Costa, Giovanni. 27(1):9-16; The Prevalence and Health Impact of Shift Work by Gordon, Nancy. American Journal of Public Health, 76(10):1225-1228.

Summary

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Make your living space as silent as possible.
  • Create a comfortable, sleep-promoting bedroom.
  • Eat well, exercise, and avoid sleeping pills.

If you work nights, you know that staying healthy isn’t easy. The night-shift worker is generally out of sync with circadian rhythms, which stimulate the body’s natural instinct to be awake in the day and sleep at night. Research has shown that when our circadian rhythms are off balance, alertness, concentration, and overall health are affected.

Sleep is crucial

Those who work the night shift know that proper sleep is their best friend…and the hardest thing to find. Here are some suggestions:

Keep a regular schedule

Some people like to use the morning energy surge to stay up and get things done before sleeping. Others prefer to sleep as soon as the shift is over. Whatever your preference, it can be challenging to find a good “night’s sleep” when the rest of the world is saying a bright “good morning” to you. The key is to set a regular schedule and stick to it.

Strive for the sound of silence

Reorganize your living space with silence in mind. Try:

  • Carpeting. It should be thick enough to muffle the sound of tiny feet or paws.
  • Acoustic tiles. These can be particularly effective if you live in an apartment.
  • Stereo and TV headphones. Keep all media a private experience.
  • Storm or soundproof windows. They help keep the outside out.
  • Phones. Turn off the ringer, or the phone itself.

You also might try a “white noise” machine, with standard or varied soothing sounds, to block outside noise.

Make your bedroom your sleep room

Your bedroom’s primary function is to promote sleep. Don’t read or watch TV there. Consider all aspects of your bedroom. Are they sleep conducive?

  • Mattress. Take time to find a comfortable and good fit.
  • Bedding. High-quality cotton provides the best comfort and breathability.
  • Shades and curtains. Make sure they block out light.

You can tape aluminum foil over the windows to fully block out light.

Good eating habits are key

Studies have shown that night-shift workers have a higher rate of ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders than day workers. Judith Wurtman, M.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests shift workers pay special attention to their dietary habits:

  • Eat carbohydrates in the morning. They promote sleep.
  • Eat proteins at night. They provide energy and stimulate alertness.
  • Eat smaller portions and more frequent, smaller meals. These digest easily.
  • Select “easy to digest” foods such as yogurt, mild soup, and rice.
  • Prepare food at home. Too often vending machines offer the only food available to night-shift workers.
  • Avoid fried foods. They stay in the stomach longer and are hard to digest.

Stay fit

Whatever you choose to do (run, walk, garden, swim, bike) staying fit is essential to staying healthy, particularly when you work the night shift. Budget a specific amount of time and stick to it. Do your workout at the same time each day.

Stay away from the medicine cabinet

They can be tempting at times, but those sleep aids in your medicine cabinet are nothing more than a quick fix. Sleeping pills have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. The jury is still out on melatonin, with countries such as the United Kingdom banning over-the-counter sales until clinical tests prove its safety. 

Source: "Sleep Secrets for Shift Workers and People With Off-Beat Schedules" by David Morgan, Whole Person Associates, 1996; "The Twenty Four Hour Society" by Moore-Ede, Martin. Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1993; The Impact of Shift and Night Work on Health, "Applied Ergonomics," by Costa, Giovanni. 27(1):9-16; The Prevalence and Health Impact of Shift Work by Gordon, Nancy. American Journal of Public Health, 76(10):1225-1228.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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