When it comes to feeling your best, working the night shift comes with built-in challenges.

First, consider sleep. When we sleep during the day, it disrupts our bodies’ natural sleep patterns. As anyone who has worked nights knows, resisting your body’s desire to sleep makes it harder to stay productive and alert. And research on night shift workers shows that when we go against our natural sleep cycle, the disruption to our circadian rhythm — our internal clock — can lead to worsened moods and poorer decision-making.

Then, there’s the effect on how we eat. Studies show that night-time eating boosts glucose levels, which is a risk factor for diabetes. A night shift schedule makes it harder to plan meals, shop for groceries and connect socially with others — including our own families.

If you work the night shift, this guide shares Microsteps you can take to prioritise your well-being and strengthen your connections. Microsteps are small, science-backed steps to help you build new healthy habits. Most of them take just a few minutes, so you can make time for them no matter how busy you are.

Recharge

Get better sleep during the day and bring more movement to your night shift.

Set a caffeine cut-off.

Taken too late in your shift, caffeine hinders your ability to fall asleep. Switch to decaf or herbal tea after lunch — your bedtime self will thank you.

Pick a consistent bedtime and stick to it.

We associate bedtimes with children, but a regular sleep schedule trains your body to rest whenever bedtime is for you, enabling you to maximise the restorative power of sleep.

Rid your bedroom of unwanted noise. 

Noise is one of the simplest and biggest barriers to deep sleep. Identify any sources of unwanted noise (starting with your devices) and either remove them from your bedroom or silence them. If the noise is outside, consider ear plugs to reduce the sound.

Take your devices out of the bedroom.

Blue light from screens makes sleep challenges even worse. Remember to remove phones or tablets from the bedroom before going to sleep.

Every day, say no to one thing that gets in the way of your sleep.

For example, ‘doom-scrolling’ the news, binge-watching a show or losing yourself in social media. This can give you back the time to get in a quick nap or to get a little more sleep.

Start your day with a burst of light movement.

Research shows that starting the day with exercise sets us up for better focus and decision-making. Even a simple stretch or a few squats will make a difference.

Take a one-minute stretch break whenever you can during your shift.

Stand up, change positions, walk around the room — anything to get your blood flowing.

Nourish

Make nutrition and hydration choices that set you up for a healthy, focused shift.

Pick one day a week to prep work lunches in bulk. 

Eating out can quickly add up, financially and nutritionally. Either over the weekend or on a designated weekday, make a batch that will provide two or three work lunches or do meal prep on your days off so you are prepared for the week.

Bring your own snacks to work. 

Take control of what you eat during your shift by packing brain-boosting snacks, like a bag of nuts and seeds, almond butter with celery sticks, roasted chickpeas, hummus and baby carrots, coconut chips, chia pudding, or unsweetened yogurt with berries.

Keep a water bottle at your station or in the break room.

You’ll avoid the temptation of soft drink and other sugary drinks. Plus, refilling your bottle throughout the night will provide you with much-needed micro-moments of rejuvenation.

Drink a glass of water when you wake up.

We wake up dehydrated, so make a point to hydrate and replenish what was lost while sleeping.

Connect

For parents, night shift work can put a strain on relationships with our kids. Take small steps to strengthen your connections, even if you’re on different schedules.

Write notes, drawings or jokes for your child to find throughout the day.

They can be simple, like “Have a great day”, or they can hint at one of your favourite inside jokes.

Record a silly bedtime video.

Your co-parent or another adult can play it for your kids if you’re working late.

Use technology to create rituals, even if you can’t be physically together.

Sing a bedtime song together, read a book over the phone, or join family dinner via FaceTime.

Do a “sink sync”, where you connect with your child at the bathroom sink before bed. 

If your schedule allows, make syncing at the sink part of your bedtime routine. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and enjoy a moment of connection before your child’s bedtime.

 

First published on 29 July 2022 here.

 

Thrive Global Asia Pacific

An alliance between Thrive Global and Monash University with the mission to end the stress and burnout epidemic. The partnership brings an evidence based approach to well-being and performance and will work with organisations to deliver programs that lift the performance, resilience, engagement and mental health of employees.

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