Many different professionals work night shifts – from medical workers, to police officers to bartenders. Regardless of the specifics of your role, no doubt you have muttered at least once “this sucks.” Friends want to hang out during the times in which you’re sleeping; you feel exhausted around the clock; and, frankly, you’re beginning to feel a bit like a vampire. Your mind and social life isn’t the only thing is suffering, as those who work overnight are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancers.
What’s more, exhaustion leads to slowed reaction times and judgment capabilities, raising the chances of accidents occurring on the job.
To help you stay healthy both physically and emotionally, below are tips for working the night shift.
1) Eat healthy. Eating healthy is much more challenging for those that work at night than during the day. Not only are places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables extremely limited when you get off work at 5 AM, but lack of nutrition-driven eateries may make vending machine you’re only option during your “lunch break.” Candies and chips are bad for your overall health, and their high sugar content will lead to a temporary energy boost before an unpleasant crash. Therefore, it is crucial that you plan ahead and stock your worksite’s refrigerator with healthy snacks.
2) Perfect the art of sleeping. Keep your phone off; invest in blackout curtains that will block out sunlight; lower the temperature of the room to mimic nighttime; and, if you can hear the outside world through your window, consider purchasing a white-noise machine. Avoid the temptation to drink coffee throughout the night to keep you up-and-running, as caffeine doesn’t have an immediate off-switch; you’ll find yourself unable to sleep through the day and even more drained for your next shift. A good tip for night shift workers is to experiment with different schedules to see whether your body prefers to doze for eight hours straight, or whether periodic naps throughout the day is more realistic.
3) Establish patterns. Your body will be going against the cycles naturally set by the sun, so set strict patterns within your life. If possible, maintain the same sleep schedule seven days a week; eat at the same time to further cement a routine; and workout around the same time of day.
4) Find healthy ways to stay awake at night. Instead of relying upon a steady stream of energy drinks, intake plenty of water and routinely move about in order maintain a healthy blood flow. Another way to stay alert is with your choice in music. A related tip for night shift workers is to try to take fifteen-minute naps while on the job to better your overall attentiveness.
5) Don’t rely upon alcohol. When you’re struggling to go to sleep, it’s all too easy to take advantage of the fact that alcohol is a depressant; this is a trap. Instead of giving you the deep sleep of the REM cycle, booze’s effects are short-lived and may lead to tossing-and-turning within a few hours. Plus, waking with a hangover is hardly refreshing. If you’re a night shift worker, do yourself a favor and steer clear.