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  • Writer's pictureMarc Primo

Wellness For Those Who Work In The Dead Of The Night

This is an article ‘Wellness For Those Who Work In The Dead Of The Night’ by Marc Primo

Developing and sustaining healthy habits is an ever-present challenge for over 15 million Americans working the night shift. While there are some benefits, not to mention added pay, for being assigned to later hours, wellness difficulties that arise with an unorthodox living schedule can take their toll on workers. It can affect their sleep patterns, eating habits, and exercise regimen.

A recent study involving nurses in the country who work the night shift shows that 59% suffered some form of depression, while 62% said they have been anxious to maintain a work-life balance. Proper wellness practices are undoubtedly essential to help late-night workers live higher quality lives instead of turning into zombies.

The same study also produced alarming insights on how similar work and schedule situations outside the usual 7AM to 6PM shifts have dramatically affected the nurses' overall well-being. Among the wellness factors influenced by late night shifts include higher fatigue levels, psychological stress experiences, the need for sleep medication (yet still with slight improvement for quality of sleep), physical discomfort, and food consumption during work.

For individuals who usually take graveyard assignments, here are four wellness hacks that can help improve your quality of life before, during, and after work:

Try to maintain regular working hours

To help your body adjust to your graveyard schedule, try to organize your shifts in the closest regular hours you can achieve to decrease the necessity of changing your daily routines. This solution can be more challenging for nurses who are commonly on rotating shifts, but asking for more clustered schedules from your superiors can prevent you from giving in to the exhausting consequence of frequently shifting your circadian rhythm.

Try sorting out the incoming week's schedule during your off days and read articles on how you can adjust your 24-hour cycles more healthily. Getting a head start over the week's challenges can significantly decrease your stress levels and help your body prepare for whatever crazy schedule you'll be assigned for work.

Watch what you eat

If you have been suddenly assigned to a night shift after you've served a day shift for some time, you might constantly find yourself nibbling on snacks and drinking coffee as you struggle to keep yourself awake. This unhealthy practice could help ephemerally, but relying on false nutrition is never a good idea when your body is trying to adjust its circadian rhythms.

One study shows that eating fast food and other unhealthy bites increases a graveyard worker's metabolic conditions, which could lead to diabetes or heart disease. Plus, it pushes you to gain weight while deteriorating your mechanisms, making it even more challenging to deal with your changing schedules.

The best way to handle nutrition deficiencies when working the night shift is to plan and prepare ahead of your weekly shift schedule. This practice will ensure that you consume the right amount of nutrition in the number of times you get a chance to eat during your shift. Including ample portions of green leafy vegetables and protein and decreasing those sugary snacks and soda ensures that you get the right energy boost from what you eat that won't make you feel exhausted afterward.

Watching what you eat means that you should always keep yourself hydrated. Regulating your body temperature at all times with around 12 to 16 cups of water during long work hours ensures that the nutrition you get from food is delivered to your cells properly.

Get enough sleep

Perhaps, the number one challenge for night shift workers is getting enough sleep during the daytime. Most of us are used to taking on jobs when the sun is up and naturally feel melatonin, or the hormones our body secretes via the pineal gland that induce sleep, at nighttime. However, for night workers who do not prioritize the amount of sleep they get daily, the body can quickly get exhausted as immunity levels drop fast. Sometimes, you'll have to adopt a true vampire's lifestyle.

If sleep is our body's way of recharging our stored energy and repairing broken cells, getting at least seven hours of sleep per day is essential to keep you in tiptop shape during work hours. Manage your social daytime gatherings, so they do not interfere with your regular sleeping hours. Set your room in a way that simulates nighttime using blackout curtains, air purifiers, and air conditioning to help you fall asleep faster. Try anything that can help you quickly enter dreamland, from relaxing music to meditation.

The problem with most workers who take night shifts is that their circadian rhythms sometimes try to prevent them from falling asleep during the daytime. You can battle sleep deprivation with clinically approved and over-the-counter melatonin tablets or gummies. However, be wary of using them daily as they might lose effectiveness over time.

Instead, gradually train your body to sleep during the daytime and exert more energy at work during your graveyard hours. The more your body can adjust to your new vampire routine, the more you can improve your overall wellness. For some, however, the only downside to this is the lack of available social time with friends and family, so it's best to reach out and spend time with them during free days to keep your mental health in check.

Find time to exercise

Another common problem for employees who work overnight is that they can't find the time to exercise after their shifts. Daytime workers find it easier whether they perform their workouts before or after work hours but for graveyard employees, time is often never on their side.

Now that we know that night shifts make you prone to gaining weight and developing comorbidities, finding some time to exercise should also be on the top of your priorities. Try fitting your workout schedule before work so that your body is more revved to handle your shift's physical strains. While plenty of 24-hour gyms in the country cater to graveyard shift workers, exercising after work might make it more difficult for you to get some much-needed sleep due to an increased heart rate.

Plan out your exercise schedule and stick to it as best as possible. Tap a training coach if you have to progress with your workouts and build strength and conditioning. Even with just ten minutes of cardio and strength exercises per day, your body can develop the resilience it needs as you perform daily work after a workout.


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