February 2, 2013

Five Healthy Tips for the Shift Worker

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The human body is designed to be diurnal. This means that we sleep at night and are active during the day. Following our body's natural rhythm ensures that we run at our optimum efficiency. But what about people that work the night shift? Throwing the body for such a loop can have serious health consequences if not approached carefully. Here are five healthy tips for the shift worker:


1.Steady Changes
If your employer has recently implemented shift work, or you have landed a new job where shift work is required, find out if you can stay on the same shift for several weeks rather than rotating weekly. By staying on the same shift for weeks at a time, no matter what shift it is, your body will respond more appropriately. You can establish new patterns within days, allowing your body and mind a bit of stability.

2.Sleep, and Sleep Often
One of the biggest issues faced by those who work shifts is the inability to sleep. According to Brianna Wilson, a nutritionist who works with shift workers, even taking naps during the day can help you feel rested and relaxed. On average, we need between seven and eight hours of sleep during any 24-hour period. If you find that you have trouble sleeping for several hours in a row with the sun streaming through your window, get as much sleep as you can and supplement it with short naps.

3.Redesign Your Environment
While it doesn't make sense to spend money revamping your bedroom if you'll only be assigned to the night shift for a week or two, you will want to do a bit of DIY if you'll be working shifts regularly. Paint your walls a dark color, install light-blocking shades or blinds on your windows, and remove distractions. You may also want to plug in a white noise machine, wear a sleep mask or sleep with ear plugs in your ears.

4.Avoid Caffeine
It can be difficult to avoid caffeine when you're trying to get your body used to staying up all night, but you'll pay for your overindulgence in the morning when it's time for bed. Do what you can to avoid, or at least cut back on, caffeine. This means staying away from energy drinks, ditching that third cup of coffee, and replacing your fourth soda with a bottle of water. Don't cut caffeine out of your life cold-turkey; you'll experience withdrawal symptoms. Instead, cut it out gradually, over a period of two weeks or more.

5.Time Your Eating
Instead of eating a hearty meal at the end of your shift, eat dinner before you head to work. During your shift, try to eat small, healthy snacks every two to three hours. If you can't eat this often, opt for a healthy salad during your lunch break, and eat a small piece of fruit when you get home. Try to remember that you're entire life will be thrown on its head; the things you would normally do during the day, including eating, will be done in the wee hours of the morning.

If you follow the tips above, you'll make it through shift work with your health intact. It will take some time to get used to, but, when done correctly, you may actually find shift work enjoyable. There is, after all, a reason why some people opt for night shift when given a choice.

Gary Meyers writes a variety of articles about the shift workers and their employers. Businesses that have around the clock work schedules can find the tools they need to help schedule their employees at www.shiftschedulessoftware.com.



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