Tips for night shift workers
Before and after shifts, people often complain of abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, low mood and increased susceptibility to common viruses. Studies looking at brain waves show that sleep rhythms are incredibly important to health. Proper alignment influences metabolism, inflammation pathways and stress hormones. So it’s no wonder us night shift workers (I’m afraid to say) have a significantly shorter life expectancy than our 9-5 colleagues.
But someone’s got to keep the streets safe at night, bake the bread or take care of the emergency department right?
The nurses back in Manly and Mona Vale hospital, Sydney, asked me for some tips on how best to deal with shift work. So I’ve teamed up with Dr Cassie @dr.majestic_md a fantastic ER doctor from OC California, to come up with some top tips on how best to deal with the dreaded night shifts! If you follow her on Snapchat @majestikal you’ll realise she knows a thing or two about nights!
Keeping your body awake when it naturally wants to sleep raises your cortisol. You’ll be working off adrenaline, so the last thing you want is sugary food to spike your glucose and insulin levels. Stick to low GI, nutrient dense and high quality fat foods to keep you going:
1. I tend to have a low carbohydrate, high quality fat and protein rich meal before my shift starts e.g. Shakshuka eggs with olives and tons of greens.
2. Graze on nutrient dense, quality fat foods to keep you satiated
Toasted nuts and seeds – experiment with spices, I like using caraway and cumin seeds that are great at settling your tummy as well
Kale chips – easy to bake a whole batch to keep snacking on, your colleagues will love you for them
Baked avocado – cover some slices in flaxseed crumb with cayenne and you’ve got a great high fat snack
Nut butters – I’m addicted
Crudités with hummus/guacamole – experiment with carrot, asparagus or whatever is in season
Dark berries – low sugar, antioxidant rich and tasty
Popcorn with spices – even though popcorn has low nutritional value, sometimes you just need to graze on anything that tastes good
3. If you find yourself desperate for a caffeine hit stick with Green Tea. Coffee raises your adrenaline levels that are already elevated, leading to high cortisol and insulin that leads to weight gain. Matcha tea naturally contains L-Theanine, an amino acid thought to be responsible for mitigating the anxiety promoting effects of caffeine. It’s also been shown in controlled studies to improve concentration .. so drink up!
TOP TIP: “I plan for a cup of tea about halfway through; so it’s enough to keep my energy level up for the rest of the shift, yet still allow me to sleep when I get home“
4. Food to avoid
High Carb – pasta, rice, bread
Soda, chocolate bars … Cake (please stop eating cake at night)
5. Preparation is key to making sure you don’t reach for that cake somebody always brings in with the best intentions! Before you get your last sleep in, make sure your food is ready
TOP TIP: “This is slightly sweeter than what I would recommend all of the time – but dried coconut strips and Greek yogurt bites or Greek yogurt covered fruit sometimes makes me feel better when everyone else is eating cake!”
6. Exercise. I always make sure I exercise before a shift. Even if it’s something as simple as stretching, yoga or a short HIIT session. It gets my blood pumping, endorphins running and I find it refreshing before a shift. But it completely depends on you!
make sure you follow @dr.majestic_md on Insta and Snap to find out what doctor life is like in an American ER!