This week we’re heading all the way to Germany to chat with Michael Wieden, the founder of Aliamos, a company that works with organisations to improve the health and well-being of employees by taking into consideration the unique biological rhythms of individuals.
Things we discuss:
1. What is chronobiology, and why is it important for shift workers to understand its significance? 2. What are chronotypes and how do they influence our ability to work specific shifts? 3. How incorporating plant-based food options into workplace canteens is improving the health of employees. 4. Why the mindset of the employer is key in rolling out successful health and wellbeing programs.
Do you work a lot of early shifts? They’re pretty brutal aren’t they? Especially when the alarm clock goes off at “stupid o’clock” as one of my clients so beautifully described.
It’s why this week I want to talk about ‘What To Eat (And Drink) On Early Shift.’
Whether you’re starting at 5am, 6am … or even 3am like I used to when I was working at the international airport (they really did hurt I can assure you – lol!!) – those feelings of fatigue really kick in thanks to the disruption to the quantity and quality of your sleep.
In geeky science terms, we refer to this as the homeostatic sleep drive or sleep pressure, and sleep rhythm.
From a quality perspective, early shifts can wake us up right in the middle of a sleep cycle which is a bit like stopping your washing machine in the middle of it’s cycle, and pulling out the washing when it’s still soggy!
From a quantitative perspective, if we haven’t tucked ourselves into bed at a reasonable hour then the fatigue effects of that early shift can be magnified even further.
So when it comes to establishing what to eat and drink on early shifts, I like to approach it from 2 key areas:
When it comes to health complaints amongst shift workers, one of the most common things that I hear from my clients is digestive discomfort. This can come in the form of constipation, bloating or various other irritable bowel type symptoms.
Now to be honest, there could be a myriad of reasons as to why you may be experiencing digestive distress, but today I want to talk about one strategy that’s … well, often overlooked if you work 24/7 – yet it can make a MASSIVE difference to how your gut feels and functions.
And if comes down to asking yourself “when (and how often) am I eating?”
Because when we work 24/7, we tend to eat 24/7 which can set us up for a whole world of pain – in a number of ways!
In other words, although we may be awake at 2am (well I use the term “awake” loosely here!), it doesn’t mean we should be eating at 2am, because of our innate biological rhythms as a human being.
The other day I had someone ask me, “Audra, what’s the number one food that you avoid when you want to sleep better?”
I know right. I can almost hear you let out an enormous sigh. Damn it! We all love sugar – especially when we’re sleep deprived!
But the thing is, our bodies need nutrients – not sugar.
Yes, sugar can give us an energy boost, but too much sugar, on the other hand, can cause something called hypoglycemia, where the blood sugar ends up dropping quite severely, leading to an energy slump later on.
Not ideal when you’re trying to pry your eyes open from getting up at “stupid o’clock”, or trying to stay awake during the night shift.
But getting back to nutrients.
Nutrients = information, and sugar, especially the highly refined and processed sugar found in most processed and takeaway foods do not contain nutrients, and this can cause problems. Especially on our sleep.