Working nights doesn’t have to wreak havoc on weight loss—here’s how to fit health into your shift.
Getting adequate rest should be a major priority for you because insufficient zzz’s—particularly the level of sleep debt that can accrue with shift work—is a major metabolic problem. Poor sleep habits create a hormonal environment that conditions your fat cells to be resistant to shrinking through changes in insulin sensitivity and the hormone leptin, which is a major regulator of appetite and metabolism.
Even after living for years on a nocturnal schedule, the human body never truly adapts to it. What impact do these late night working hours have on your health? Typically, night shift workers have long complained about fatigue and sleep problems.
It is a definite challenge to keep regrouping every time you start or end a series of night shift work hours. Let’s look at how night shift work affects your health and weight, and some tips on how you can address this challenge.
The first step in making a night-owl schedule a healthy one is to fit in adequate sleep. If you do happen to awake before reaching a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep, fit in some naps throughout the day.
Go directly to sleep after work. Resist turning on the TV, reading a thriller or anything else that might start your mind racing.
Disconnect yourself from your digital life. No mobile phones, TVs, Tablets or anything with a screen.
Shift workers often eat due to boredom or tiredness. These habits can wreak havoc with their weight-loss plan because there is less access to nutritious meals at night. And, again, nature is working against you: When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to crave food high in fat and calories.
If you are coming off a late night shift, the last thing you are going to want to do is sit down and think about what to eat and if you have those foods on hand, let alone cook the meal before you can eat. You need to set yourself up for success by having your meals pre-planned and ideally pre-made, especially the ones you’d eat coming off a night shift. This will help drastically with your adherence to your healthy eating plan and thus your weight loss.
Being aware of these factors is the first step in sticking to healthy habits. While there are no specific foods proven to help you relax, the best foods for shift workers are the healthy, balanced choices that are best for anybody.
If you drink caffeine, do so as early as possible in your shift. Why? Drinking caffeine just before bed leaves the body restless and makes it difficult for the body to shut down into a sleep state.
As a coping strategy for night shifts, exercise soon after you awake will raise your body temperature, improve your mood and make you feel more alert for the rest of the day. Exercising one or two hours before commencing your shift will keep you more alert whilst your in work.
If your job allows it, try to fit in activity while at work to keep yourself alert, even if it’s only a quick walk. Like sleep, exercise adds up throughout the day. The best thing to do is experiment—and find what works best for you.
– Aaron McClelland
Evolve Health & Performance