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Shift work, by its nature, impacts on your ability to follow a normal routine. Shift workers, particularly night workers, often feel tired and run down due to their working schedule. This highlights one of the biggest health concerns of shift work - fatigue. Working at odd hours makes it very hard to maintain a balance between work, sleep, and social interaction. We recognise that this can leave you feeling tired, depressed and lacking in energy. So we've collated some simple changes to implement to your sleeping, eating and exercising routine which can increase your ability to adapt to the irregular lifestyle that is shift work.

Today we'll discuss eating and sleeping, followed by exercise in part 2 tomorrow.

Eat well all day.

It is important to snack throughout the day for sustained energy, but the type of snacks you select are even more important.
Healthy snacks have three main benefits:

  • Help to satisfy small appetites and maintain a consistent energy level throughout the day.
  • Prevent binge eating and ensure you don’t become overly hungry. 
  • Important nutrients. The right snacks contribute to your daily requirements for vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fibre.

Need some great snack options? Try these:

  • Fruit - fresh, frozen, dried
  • Raw vegetables - cut into sticks and served with low fat dips like hommus
  • High fibre breads with healthy fillings
  • High fibre breakfast cereal - avoid sugar coated products
  • Low fat dairy products

Next, let's discuss how you can get a good day's sleep.

When you work night shifts, it can be difficult to fall asleep during the daylight hours. Here are a few suggestions:

  • At the end of your shift wear dark glasses to help your internal clock adjust.
  • Use shades or curtains to darken your bedroom while you sleep. 
  • Keep the bedroom quiet with a white noise machine, fan or earplugs. 
  • Set the thermostat so your bedroom is cooler during the day. 
  • Cut out caffeine for several hours before you sleep.

The value of sleep.
Sleeping less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis has been found to be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Eat right to boost your sleep quality.
Once your shift is over, eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat to make you sleepy.