Employee Wellness: 5 Wellness Tips for Night Shift Employees
According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 15 million United States employees are currently on a night shift schedule. Adjusting to a night shift schedule can be difficult at first. Being awake while most people are sleeping, and vice versa, can make it harder to stick to healthy habits like receiving adequate nutrition, getting quality sleep, and incorporating exercise.
Listed below are 5 tips on how to incorporate a healthy diet, exercise and quality sleep while working night shift.
1. Maintain Good Nutrition
Eat healthy foods throughout your shift. The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences suggest prepping meals and snacks ahead for the night shift. This will prevent the need for takeout or cafeteria meals and provide an opportunity to get an energy boost from healthy proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Foods high in sugar should be avoided, as they may deplete energy levels after a short amount of time. Good snack options could include trail mix, fruit, or energy bars low in sugar. It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the shift to boost energy levels, regulate body temperature, and keep the body functioning properly.
2. Make Time For Exercise
Add exercise to your daily routine. Night shift employees may feel like they lack the time and energy to incorporate a workout schedule, but it may actually improve energy levels to be more active. Also, night shift employees may be at a greater risk for heart disease. Even just a 30 minute workout daily may decrease risk for disease, reduce stress, and improve energy levels. An ideal time to exercise may be before a shift to prevent insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep after a shift.
3. Get Quality Sleep
Make sure you are getting enough sleep. According to the Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine, it is best to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. When people suffer from a lack of sleep, they may have decreased productivity, health, and mood. In addition, it may be harder for night shift employees to fall asleep during the day. Here are some tips to help improve sleep quality:
Sleep Environment. Make sure the space you’re sleeping in is dark, comfortable, and noise free.
Blue Light. Reduce screen use 2-3 hours before bedtime. Blue light exposure may be keeping you awake by shifting your circadian rhythm.
Consistency. Maintain a sleep schedule, even on the weekends.
Gradual Change. If you are about to switch to an earlier or later shift, it’s best to incorporate this over a period of time. For example, go to sleep a couple hours earlier before the shift change.
4. Be Mindful of Caffeine Intake
Limit caffeine consumption throughout your shift. Although staying awake during a night shift may be challenging for some, it’s best to avoid caffeine towards the end of your shift. According to the Sleep Foundation, caffeine consumption should be avoided 3-4 hours before bedtime. If consuming caffeine during a night shift, it’s best to drink it earlier in the shift.
5. Take Advantage of Power Naps
Take a nap if you need a quick recharge. The Sleep Foundation suggests taking a 10 to 20 minute nap during a break to provide a slight energy boost. The short nap will give a needed rest, but your body will not fall into a deep sleep, which will prevent you from waking up groggy. Taking too long of a nap may cause you to wake up more tired.
It is very important to incorporate wellness habits while working night shifts to maintain adequate health and energy levels. The tips provided are designed to give you ideas on how to better manage night shifts, however these are only suggestions and modifications may be made to better fit an individual’s schedule.
Written by: Skye Pietrzykowski, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
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