The human body has what is called a circadian rhythm, which is a kind of natural clock that tells your brain when it’s time to sleep and wake up. Beyond this, the body’s circadian rhythm also helps regulate a variety of processes and functions, such as the heart rate, body temperature, and even digestive action.
When you go against this natural sleep-wake cycle, your body’s circadian rhythm will be thrown into disarray. As a result, you increase your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.
The problem is that there are times when you really can’t avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm. For example, if you work the graveyard shift in a manufacturing plant or a BPO facility, you’re definitely not going to have a “normal” sleep schedule.
To prevent any long-term health issues while working a graveyard shift, here are some health and self-care tips to keep in mind:
Determine Your Fixed Sleeping Hours
Working at odd hours means you’ll also be sleeping at odd hours. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t maintain a fixed sleeping schedule. Aim for the recommended 7 to 9 hours and try to incorporate naps during your work hours as well (if it’s allowed). Below are some things that may help you improve your sleep schedule:
- Go to bed at the same hour. Don’t delay because you’ll only be making it harder for yourself to fall asleep.
- Eat a light snack before bed, so you don’t get awakened by hunger or thirst.
- Avoid drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, and smoking before bed. You may not be able to get quality and deep sleep when you drink alcohol before bed; meanwhile, caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that may make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Set up your room so that it’s conducive to sleep. Invest in blackout curtains to simulate nighttime, which makes it easier for your body to “condition” itself for sleep.
Be Ready with Your Supplements and Medicines
One of the biggest health concerns of those who work the graveyard shift is vitamin D deficiency. After all, if you’re asleep during the day, then you won’t get your recommended dose of sunlight exposure. This is why vitamin D supplements are a must for night shift workers. Of course, before you buy medicine of any kind, consult with your doctor first. This will help you determine the correct dosage and proper use of each product.
Aside from vitamin supplements, graveyard shift workers should also consider buying sleep aids like melatonin. Other nutrients that can help you regulate your sleep cycle include vitamin B6 and tryptophan. Consider getting vitamin C supplements as well to boost your immune system.
Don’t Overdo the Caffeine
As previously mentioned, caffeine, commonly found in coffee as well as energy drinks, is a stimulant. This is why it can help you stay awake and alert throughout your shift. However, excessive caffeine intake can result in unpleasant effects such as heart palpitations, muscle shakes, and stomach upset. It can also prevent you from sleeping well.
To make sure that caffeine doesn’t affect your sleep, make sure to stop consuming caffeine-containing food and beverages about 6 hours before bedtime. Some people also find that drinking smaller amounts of coffee throughout their shift instead of consuming one or two full cups at a time is more effective. Try this method and see if it works for you.
Eat Right and On Time
What you may not notice is that when you have a disrupted circadian rhythm, your metabolism also goes a little haywire. This puts you at a higher risk of becoming overweight, not to mention undernourished because of poor diet and eating habits.
Thus, make a concerted effort to eat right to maintain your good health. Much like your sleeping patterns, it’s best if you can follow a fixed schedule for eating. You should also consider preparing a meal plan or calendar, so you don’t have to think too much about what you’re going to cook and eat. It’s also a good idea to take frequent light meals; this is better for your concentration than eating full meals, which makes some people feel drowsy afterwards.
For an energy boost, try eating bananas, apples, and nuts. Stay away from sugary foods, as these can make you feel lethargic after a quick spike of energy.
Drink Plenty of Water
Last but not least, drinking plenty of water is a must for good health whether or not you’re working the graveyard shift. What’s great about drinking water is that it can help keep your energy up and also stabilize your body temperature. The latter is particularly important when you’re trying to sleep—just don’t drink too much to prevent nocturia (the urge to urinate at night).
For the course of your shift, make sure to drink sufficient water. The ideal is about 1 to 3 liters a day, depending on your body build, age, and whether or not you perspire heavily.
With these tips, you can stay in the pink of health even in less-than-ideal work schedules.
Work hard and stay healthy!