In recent times, the trend of working night shifts has increased a lot.
In fact, many Americans are doing jobs at night that were traditionally done during the regular workday hours of 9 to 5.
Working night shifts can be good from a financial aspect, but such jobs are not good from a health aspect.
A study published in Safety and Health at Work in 2010 reports that night shifts are a risk factor for health and well-being, at both social and psychophysical levels, starting from a disruption of biological circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycle and ending in several psychosomatic troubles and disorders, likely also including cancer, and extending to impairment of performance efficiency as well as family and social life (1).
A 2014 study published in Rehabilitation Nursing reports that shift work and long work hours for nurses increase the risk for reduced performance on the job, obesity, injuries and a wide range of chronic diseases(2).
In an age of fast economic change, it may not possible to quit jobs with night shifts. You may also be a victim of drawbacks related to night shifts. If so, there are certain useful tips that can benefit you.
Here are some tips to stay healthy when working night shifts.
1. Take Frequent Breaks
Whether you are working a 9-to-5 job or night shifts, taking frequent breaks is a must.
The break can be 10 to 20 minutes for every one hour of work, depending upon whether you are sitting most of the time or involved in monotonous or hazardous work.
Taking breaks can protect you from the potential hazards of hours of sitting every day. It helps boost creativity and passion, refresh your attention span and sustain concentration, lower your body mass index, keep your eyes happy and healthy, and can help with memory and learning.
2. Exercise When You Can
Working night shifts does not mean that you can skip exercising. Regular exercise helps your body adapt to stressful circumstances, including the night shift’s nontraditional sleep schedule. It even boosts your immunity, keeps you alert, and improves your concentration and memory.
While it is true that working nontraditional hours may wreak havoc on your exercise routine, you still need to take time to do some exercise on a daily basis.
If you work the night shift, it is important to find a workout time that fits into your schedule.
You can exercise right before or after work by spending 30 minutes performing some form of cardiovascular activity, such as swimming, bike riding or playing a sport.
It is even possible to get some exercise during your shift. On your breaks, go for short walks or take the stairs in your office as much as possible.
You can also try some yoga before going to bed.
3. Stick to a Regular Sleep Pattern
People doing night shifts suffer from sleep-related issues, as the body clock finds it difficult to adjust to sleeping during daylight. Also, those working night shifts get far fewer hours of shut eye a week than their day-working colleagues.
But no matter what, you must get the sleep your body needs or you may be at a higher risk of suffering from obesity, heart disease, stress and other health issues.
To get the much-needed sleep, stick to a routine. Try to eat and sleep around the same times, seven days a week.
During the daytime, there can be lots of disturbances that keep you from getting sound sleep. Hence, sleep in a quiet room with minimum sunlight to have sufficient uninterrupted sleep.
Even exercising in the morning after your shift ends can help your body realize it is time to rest. The best exercise that you can do is running, spinning or kickboxing.
Before going to sleep, eat breakfast to avoid waking due to hunger.
4. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
While doing night shift jobs, people tend to keep on drinking coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages to help them stay alert.
But drinking excess caffeine can be bad for your health. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to eight hours and affect your sleep.
A 2009 study published in Sleep Medicine reports that night-shift workers should avoid drinking coffee to improve their sleep. The caffeine in coffee interferes with sleep, and this side effect worsens as people age (3).
If you like coffee, drink no more than two to three small cups of regular coffee a day. However, it’s better to switch to decaffeinated drinks or unsweetened herbal tea.