Overnight shifts are becoming more and more frequent in our workforce. Some places never have a “closing time” and more and more companies are hiring overnight workers to expedite productivity in the wee hours of the morning. I have personally worked overnight shifts for several years and I know firsthand the effects it can have on your body and overall health and wellness. Research shows that humans are typically not nocturnal individuals. Our bodies are made to function during the day when the light is out and rest and recharge once the sun goes down. But, if you’re like me, and you live that vamp (Vampire) life because you’re a night person or you’re obligated to work the often dreaded graveyard shift, I have some tips for you. Staying holistically well is possible-even if you’re functioning more at night than during the day.
For most ” 3rd shift” workers, in addition to what most consider a grueling schedule, you also have some day time obligations such as school, another job, taking care of your kids/loved ones, or other extracurricular activities. While all of this can be difficult to manage, it isn’t impossible. Here are just a few of my tips to surviving the night shift and maintaining wellness:
Establishing a steady sleep routine or schedule is crucial to anyone’s overall wellness-but even more specifically to overnight shift workers. When we sleep, our body and organs recharge for better function quality when we’re awake. Getting proper sleep aids your digestion, energy, and metabolism during the day. One thing I hear from night shift workers is they have trouble sleeping during the day once they get home from work. Here are some ways to combat that
- Try to get rest in a quiet low lighting atmosphere and decrease all environmental stimuli -if possible. I like to have dark curtains in my bedroom to ensure natural sunlight doesn’t keep me up when it’s time for me to catch them ZZZ’s.
- Get a good “nights” rest: sleep about 6- 8 hours. For those of you not going to sleep right away upon the end of your shift, it’s really important you make an appointment with yourself to sleep (and keep it). Consistency is key and therefor it’s important you establish a same time sleep pattern daily so your body is conditioned to when it’s time to recharge. Try a few different regimens until you figure out what works best for you.
- Here some added tips to help with sleep:
- burn chamomile incense
- drink chamomile tea
- use aromatherapy
- take a soothing bath
- listen to white noise
- Count sheep routine
- Incorporate a meditation schedule in your day
#2 Plan Your Meals!
Planning meals on an overnight schedule can be difficult. You never know what day it is let alone what time of day it is to even figure out what meal it’s time to eat. Here is my key to success. I always say change begins in your mind right? So, literally reframe your thought process to start to think of meals as well, just that, meals! Eliminate meal titles such as Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I like to think of my meals as
- meal 1
- snack 1
- meal 2
- snack 2
- meal 3
- snack 3
Tradition has conditioned our mind into believing that certain food groups should be eaten at certain meals and times of day. You typically want to ensure your first meal that starts your day is the most fueling (incorporate a variety and good portion of veggies, protein, and good carbs into your meal 1). Your last meal should be the least in portion, since you will most likely be asleep in a few hours post this meal. This is typically your “lunch” break during overnight shift- if you plan to sleep immediately post shift. Plan and prep all of your snacks and meals! This is super important for overnight workers, as you may need a little bit more fuel so incorporate extra healthy snacks throughout your shift.
- Avoid taking trips to snack machine
- No chips, soda, energy drinks, high sugar syrup coffee, and candy.
- Drink lots of water (approximately half your weight in ounces throughout the day)
#3 Schedule workout/physical activity time
Managing a schedule where you’re working while everyone is asleep can be very difficult. It can be even more difficult to establish a steady workout/gym schedule but again it is not impossible. If you don’t have obligations in the morning after work, pack your workout clothes and when you get off of work, go straight to the gym or go workout. People who work 9-5 jobs typically do this, if they didn’t already wake up at the crack of dawn to get their sweat on. If you change into your workout gear on your way out of work you have no excuse to not workout-you’re already in your workout clothes so just get it done! No excuses! At home fitness programs have also been beneficial for me because I can decide to work out when I get home from work or when I wake up to get ready for my “day” and work again.
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Essentially, these tips can be practiced by anyone, regardless of what shift you work, however, I understand first-hand how overnight shifts and health and wellness goals can be difficult to manage. The tips included above are things I have found helpful and has aided in my overall wellness maintenance while working the graveyard shift. If you have any tips or tricks that work for you I’d love to hear from you- please comment them below.
Be mindful and stay well,
ILM, MSW-Wellness Coach
Email me today for a free wellness consultation!
“Change begins in your mind.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Please consult with a medical physician and/or mental health provider before beginning any fitness, nutrition, or mindfulness regimine or program.