Shift work can play havoc with your body. It means that you sleep and eat at unusual times, and this can put your body out of its natural routine, which can lead to problems such as diabetes, weight gain, and irritability. It is also harder to stick to a routine regarding exercise or even have a social life. However, although it may be harder to stay happy and healthy while working shifts, it is not impossible. Here are some tips to help you.
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The more organized you are in your downtime, the easier it will be for you to work shifts. Make sure your work clothes are clean, ironed, and hanging in the wardrobe for the days ahead. It can be easiest to prepare this on your days off or when you are working the late shift, so you have enough time. Batch cooking when you have time is another great way of taking care of yourself on shifts, as you do not have to spend time making sandwiches every day or grabbing something unhealthy on the go. Cook some healthy food such as pasta or a rice dish that you can put in the fridge and eat for a couple of days in a row. That way you can just pack it in your lunch bag and head off to work.
Your body clock is all over the place when you work shifts, and this makes your body crave an energy hit. It is easy to snack on unhealthy food such as chocolate or cake to give you that sugar rush. However, this doesn’t help you in the long-term, as it makes your blood sugar level spike and then crash, quickly leaving you feeling even more tired than you did before. To combat this, eat slow-releasing high-energy food such as fruit or nuts to keep you going through your shift pattern. It is better to eat little and often if you are tired rather than having big meals less regularly, as eating a lot can make you feel tired.
Get Enough Vitamins
When you work shifts, you can get deficient in some of the vitamins you need to stay healthy. A particular issue can be Vitamin D, especially if you are working night shifts as you won’t get as much sunlight. Take vitamin supplements if you want to stay healthy and make sure you eat fruit and vegetables that are packed with the essential vitamins your body needs. This will also give you more energy, so getting through your shifts will be easier.
A lot of shift workers drink caffeine to get them through a long night shift and they find that it helps them to stay awake. If you need your 2 am caffeine hit, then you are not alone but there are a few golden rules you should follow to make sure you stay happy and healthy. Firstly, drink tea or coffee rather than energy drinks, as they tend to have a lot of sugar in them. Energy drinks may keep you awake for longer, but this will be a problem once your shift is over and you want to go home to bed.
As caffeine keeps you awake, you should stop drinking it several hours before you go to bed. Switching to water about three hours before the end of your shift should give the caffeine time to leave your body and give you a more restful sleep.
Your body may feel more dehydrated than usual if you are working shifts, so it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during your shift. Keep a cup of water close at hand so that you can take a sip every time you go past. This will help to keep you hydrated and make you feel more alert.
It is vital to stay busy while you are at work, as a slow shift will make you feel even more tired. If you are enjoying a quiet shift, find something to do so that you can keep moving and keep your brain active. This will help the shift to pass more quickly and stop you from thinking about how tired you are every five minutes.
It can be difficult to switch off after a long shift, especially if you have been working nights or unusual hours and you have to come home and sleep during the daytime. Your body clock is programmed to sleep at night, and you may find that you have too much energy to go straight home to bed after a busy shift. After all, if you were working days, you would usually have about five hours to relax and unwind before bed.
Trying to force your body to sleep while your mind is active is going to cause frustration and insomnia, so learning to relax is vital. Meditation and yoga can help enormously with this and promote a great night’s sleep. Once you have cleared your mind, it will stop running around in circles thinking about the shift you have had. If you are tired when you finish work, aim to practice yoga or meditation for around ten minutes. You will really notice the difference.
Style Your Bedroom for Sleep
Making a few simple changes to your bedroom can promote a great sleep, whatever time of day you go to bed. Blackout curtains are a fantastic addition to your room, as they will help to fool your body and brain into believing it is nighttime and therefore time for sleep. A sleep mask can be worn for the same purpose.
Removing technology will help to promote a more restful sleep. The blue light that emits from your phone or iPad will convince your brain that it is daytime. This makes it harder for you to go to sleep and stay asleep. It may also make you feel that you are still on call as your phone could ping at any time. This will stop you from getting as good a rest as you need. If you want to read before you go to sleep, pick up a book rather than your tech.
If you have a lot of clutter in your room, get rid of it or put it away. The clean lines of a tidy bedroom will make you feel more peaceful and promote rest. It will also give you one less thing to worry about when you wake up.
Never underestimate the importance of a power nap. Even 20 minutes of sleep can keep you happy and healthy. If you are working a late or night shift, try to have a power nap before you head off to work as this will give you energy. Another option is to power nap on your break but make sure you set an alarm to wake you up, or you could find yourself in trouble for spending the rest of your shift in the break room.
Don’t Neglect Exercise
You may feel too tired to exercise if you are working shifts, but you should still find time for it if you can. Exercise will help you to feel fitter, healthier, and give you the energy to get through your shifts. Finding the best time of the day to exercise can be a challenge, but with a bit of experimentation, you will find the space that works for you. Some people find that exercising straight after a shift helps them to wind down whereas others are too tired to hit the gym after work. For some shift workers, exercising when they wake up is a great energy booster, which then sets them up well for their next shift.
Make The Most of Your Time Off
Spending your time either working or sleeping is not going to make you feel happy and this routine can affect your mental health too. Find some time for yourself among your shift patterns if you want to stay happy and healthy. Spending time catching up with your friends is important. Although you may find that you do not get a chance to spend as much time with your old friends as you used to, hanging out with colleagues who work a similar shift pattern to yourself will give you back the social life you may have been missing. This will make you enjoy a more balanced life.
Working shifts can make it difficult to keep up with some hobbies but it can make others easier. For example, make the most of online exercise classes or YouTube videos. Spend some time on self-improvement or studying for your next promotion by completing a DNP degree online. This will give you a sense of purpose and make you feel more like yourself.
It is possible to stay happy and healthy while working shifts. With a little planning and preparation, you may even decide that you prefer this way of working to the traditional 9-5.