10 Healthy Habits for Shift Workers

Shift work can be a tough gig! It is also a complete necessity for healthcare workers to be able to adequately support and care for their community. While there are several benefits for shift workers (including but certainly not limited to; excellent penalty rates, convenience for families with young children and the ability to get more done during the day), it can also be physically, mentally and emotionally draining! 

Thankfully, these day’s there is a greater understanding of the strain all shift workers face, as well as amazing people who can provide professional advice on how you can help yourself to stay healthy and better adapt to a constantly changing routine.

To provide you with some easy tips to maintain your health and wellbeing, we recently sat down with the Occupational Therapists at MPOT and Exercise Physiologists at Access Fitness to put together this list of 10 health habits for shift workers!

Most adults need around eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour period to function well. Although many people claim they require less sleep, only 10% of adults require significantly more or less than the recommended 8 hours. Shift workers function on a schedule that is not ‘normal’ which can upset the circadian rhythm (24-hour body cycle). Although it is suggested that a person’s rhythms can adapt over time, shift workers often struggle to reach this phase, as when they change rotation or have a day off, it throws any sleep or activity adaptation out of whack again.

Poor diet is a huge concern for shift workers, particularly those working on night shifts and rotating rosters. Loss of appetite at night often influences workers to snack, and most likely on junk foods with little nutritional value. Feelings of fatigue also often encourage consumption of beverages containing caffeine and sugar. If you have healthy snacks with you and ready to eat – you’ll be less likely to reach for something sweet!

Maintenance of hydration will help to balance your digestive system by assisting your body to flush out toxins, absorb nutrients and regulate body temperature. It will also boost your energy and help to relieving fatigue by impacting your flow of oxygen.

Studies have proven that fit workers accomplish more work with less fatigue. Participation in regular exercise and maintenance of a good health routine are essential to optimal function for shift workers.

Try to eat your main meal in the middle of the day and not in the middle of your night shift. Make sure your main meal is balanced, varied and nutrient rich. Eat lightly throughout a night shift and have a moderate breakfast.

Caffeine use during night shift is OK, but you shouldn’t have any within six hours of bedtime. There are short-term health hazards, such as chronic sleeplessness and anxiety, associated with consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine in a 24-hour period, which is around 4 cups of brewed coffee.

The bad news is that calories consumed at night do count, and they may even count more than you realise. The misalignment of your circadian clock and sleep-wake cycle is the cause of how dreadful the night shift makes you feel. Sleep deprivation influences food choices — there is evidence that you are more likely to seek calorie-dense carbohydrates, sweet foods, and salty snacks12 — and reduces our capacity to metabolise food. How therefore will we escape the pitfalls?  “First, have a nutritious, substantial lunch before to your shift; choose foods that release energy slowly. Water is the greatest way to stay hydrated throughout your shift.  “If possible, avoid eating between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m., and if you must eat at night, choose low-calorie, protein-rich snacks; don’t graze all night.  “Finally, take a good breakfast before daylight sleep so that you do not awaken hungry. “Try it out on your next evenings and see how it goes.”

Staying fit as a shift worker requires attention on three primary areas: occasional exercise, appropriate food, and enough rest. This can help mitigate the negative effects of shift work and ensure a healthy body and mind while working at various hours of the day.

:. Here are a few other strategies to include occasional exercise into your shift-work lifestyle:

– Walk for 15 to 20 minutes in the morning, followed by 10 minutes of skipping in the afternoon.
– While watching a movie or television programme, place your yoga mat on the floor and challenge yourself to do 50 sit-ups and 20 push-ups during the course of the film or programme.
– Hold a plank position daily. Increasing your strength by 5-10 seconds each few days
– Take the stairs instead of the escalator at work.
– Perform squats while waiting for the kettle to boil or the microwave to “ding.”

The best method to manage your social life as a shift worker is to communicate, use the time you have, discover people with similar hours, utilise technology, plan in advance, and have a happy attitude. Work should not be an excuse for missing out!

-Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body. This hormone alerts the brain that it’s time to sleep. Studies demonstrate that melatonin increases the quality and length of daytime sleep. This is especially beneficial for shift workers. 

-Valerian Root. This root is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety, sadness, and menopausal symptoms. This root is also the most popular sleep-promoting herb in the United States and Europe. 

– Magnesium is essential for brain function and cardiovascular health. Studies have demonstrated that magnesium’s capacity to control melatonin synthesis has a calming impact on the body. 

-Lavender. The calming aroma of lavender is considered to promote sleep. Several studies indicate that merely smelling lavender oil for thirty minutes before bedtime may be sufficient to enhance sleep quality. 

– Passion Flower is a common herbal cure for insomnia and is also known as Passiflora incarnata and maypop. Its effects on people seem to vary depending on the mode of consumption. More research is required to confirm the advantages of passionflower for people. Passionflower tea may marginally enhance sleep.