Top 10 – Health tips to follow if you work the night shift

If you have a job that requires you work the night shift, pay a little extra attention to certain things to avoid adversely affecting your health.

Health tips for night shift workers

Whether you work in a call centre, hospital or are working with international partners; working the night shift is a way of life for many Indians today. Here are some simple health tips you can follow to avoid the pitfalls of working the night shift.

Health tips to follow if you work the night shift

  1. Adjust your body clock – We are all naturally programmed to rise with the sun and sleep after dark. So if you’re new to the night shift you might be feeling bright in the day and groggy at night. Doggedly keep to the same time of waking up and going to bed every day so that your body gets the message and will slowly but surely shift your inner clock to match the new timings.

  2. Diet – Most people working the night shift have at least one or two meals at work. The danger here is of overstuffing yourself since food is readily available. If you’re working the night shift, try and finish dinner by 8pm or so, before you start your shift. Between 12 midnight and 6 am, it’s best to eat light meals that are high in fibre and protein and low in sugar and fat.

  3. Help yourself get a good day’s rest – When you get back home after a night shift, you may be so tired that you just crawl into bed. But take a few minutes to ensure that you get some undisturbed winks. Draw the curtains to shut out the sunlight as much as possible and turn off your phone. Check that your pillows support your neck and the mattress is not lumpy. A droning sound such as from an overhead fan or air-conditioner acts as a noise buffer and creates white noise, which aids sleep.

  4. Sleeping tips – Try to get a big chunk of sleep in one go (at least 4-5 hours). If you break up your sleep in many smaller pieces, deep sleep will elude you and you will not be as rested as if you had slept at a stretch.

  5. Watch the snacking habit – Most people working the night shift have sitting jobs; nine times out of ten in front of the computer. Keeping your facial muscles active by means of snacking and chewing may seem like fun but you are unwittingly consuming a lot of calories in the process. So if you must munch, avoid chocolates, chips and fried stuff, instead carry along a fruit or puffed rice that have a much lower calorie count.
    Also read these Top 10 health tips for the office

  6. Ergonomics – When sitting at the workplace, keep some ergonomic principles in mind to keep yourself in shape. Check that the top of your monitor is at or below eye level, use an anti-glare screen to protect your eyes and blink often – it helps lubricate your peepers. Also, every hour look away at a distant object for a minute to avoid straining your eye muscles. Good posture at work will take you a long way to being fit. Your back has the burden of supporting your whole body so treat it with care. Avoid slouching, jerky movements while sitting or getting up from the chair and lastly, make sure your lower limbs support your back. You can do this by ensuring that your feet touch the floor (not just your toes) or use a footboard if you are on the shorter side. A small cushion for the lower back gives additional support.

  7. Hydrate yourself – While working in an air-conditioned office it is important to keep drinking water as the skin loses moisture due to the air-conditioning and even slight dehydration can prevent you from functioning at your productive best. So keep a bottle of water on your desk and drink liberally. Remember that beverages like coffee and tea dehydrate so limit their intake. Have buttermilk instead. Sipping warm water is also a good idea as warmth keeps colds at bay.

  8. Stay alert – If you are feeling groggy and fighting sleep to no avail a simple technique is to get up. Go for a short walk even if it’s just to the water filter. Or keep mints or sugar free chewing gum handy; different things work for different people.

  9. Change shifts forward ­– If you’re changing your shift, make sure you change it forward, not backward. So if you’ve been doing an early morning shift, change it to an afternoon shift, not a night one. This helps your body to cope better with the changes.
  10. Annual health checks – Visit your doctor and get an annual medical check-up done even if you do not have any complaints. Incorporate your physician’s recommendations for your particular lifestyle diligently. Most people working in the night shift tend to gain weight over a few months so make sure to include some physical activity in your daily routine. Even half an hour of brisk walking is good enough; remember frequency of exercise is the key to longevity.

Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician

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