Health Advocate Blog

Healthy tips for shift workers

Approximately 15 million people in the US work a third-shift job. If you’re one of them, you may have chosen this job by choice, by necessity, or your hours might just be part of the job description. No matter the reason for working the night shift, those that do are more susceptible to health risks including sleep disorders, depression, heart disease and weight gain. Working at night can be difficult and requires more of an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you work the night shift, try these tips to help you stay healthy.

Practice healthy eating habits. One of the best steps shift workers can take for good health is through nutrition. Food fuels the body; the right fuel increases energy, prevents sluggishness and promotes efficiency.

  • Eat your “main” meal prior to work. Waiting to eat your main meal during or after work can lead to tiredness and overeating later on.
  • Pack a small meal and several snacks for work. Pack portable fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, celery and carrots. Protein-rich snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter or trail mix also make good snack options.
  • Prep your meals on days off or before your shift. Find tips here for healthy packable meals.
  • Avoid a second “dinner” after work. Choose a healthy snack rather than a full meal. If you find yourself really hungry after your shift, that’s a sign you may not be eating enough earlier in the day.
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages to prevent crashes. Beware the vending machine. If you feel the need to drink a soda or have a sweet treat, keep in mind the sugar may feel good for a moment, but the crash afterwards may make you regret the decision.

Stay hydrated. Drinking water may help to increase energy levels as well as enable the nutrients from food to properly fuel your body. Beverages that are low in sugar and caffeine-free can count toward your water intake. If caffeine is a must, consume it prior to work or within the first few hours of your shift so that it interferes less with your sleep or relaxation after work.

Keep active outside of work and during your shift. Physical activity is not only good for your health, but can also improve your mood, increase energy levels and help manage stress.

  • Form an exercise plan. Having a strategy is crucial to making effective health changes. Find a few minutes in your day to devote to an activity, like walking or jogging. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Exercise before your shift can be a great way to start your day.
  • Maintain your momentum at work—take every opportunity to stand, stretch and walk around during your shift.

Get quality sleep. Adults are advised to sleep between seven and nine hours each day. Create a sleep schedule, and stick to it. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on days off from work. Sleep is necessary to restore your body to its full potential. Looking for additional tips to help get a better night’s sleep? Find tips here.

Connect with family and friends. Working while everyone else is off requires more effort for a healthy social life. Relationships with others can improve quality of life, reduce stress and increase happiness.

Find a routine and stick to it. Keep your internal clock on schedule by forming a routine. Eat, exercise, sleep and spend time with family and friends as close to the same times each week as you are able; this will help you find a rhythm to stay on track. Sticking with a routine also helps maintain follow-through with your healthy habits.

For Health Advocate members

Having difficulty sticking with your health goals while working the night shift? If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the wellness coaching component of our Wellness Program, call us today to connect with a Wellness Coach for support and accountability.