What is shift work?
Shift work involves working on a schedule outside the standard 9-5 day (e.g. early morning and night shifts).
How does shift work have an impact on our health?
Our body works around a circadian rhythm. This refers to the body’s internal clock. Shift work, especially night shifts tend to disrupt the circadian rhythm, making it difficult for a shift worker to have a regular eating and sleeping pattern. The irregular eating pattern of a shift worker can also lead to unnecessary night time snacking of high fat, high sugar refined snacks instead of regular, balanced meals. There is also an increased dependence on convenient and takeaway meals rather than nutritional, home cooked meals. Some common health problems linked to irregular eating patterns are gastrointestinal issues such as reflux and constipation, as well as, other chronic diseases like obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. It can also lead to nutrient deficiencies with fibre, zinc and vitamin D.
Here are 3 lifestyle recommendations for night shift workers:
1. Avoid eating big meals between 12am to 6am
Try to have an early dinner prior to the start of the shift and breakfast at the end of the shift (before going to sleep). This will prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night due to hunger. Once you have woken up, lunch can follow this.
It’s understandable that one would be exhausted after a night shift, so it can help to go for easier Breakfast options such as, Weet-Bix with low fat milk topped with fruit and nuts or wholegrain toast with boiled eggs and a quarter of an avocado.
Examples of lunch and dinner meals include fresh fish with microwavable vegetables and rice or spaghetti bolognese with grated vegetables in the sauce.
2. Limit snacking
It is important to be cautious about snacking through the night shift. Although the frequency of snacking needs to be controlled, one can opt for snacks which contain wholegrain carbohydrates and protein that can fill you up and keep you alert. For example, include a piece of fruit and yogurt or wholegrain crackers with a boiled egg.
Green tea and chamomile tea can also help with hydration and digestion.
3. Be proactive
Make the best of the time when you are not working. Use your weekends to catch up on physical activity and preparing meals at home instead of overindulging on alcohol and takeaway meals.
Contact us for results focused on nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.