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.
I’ll use an analogy to help explain what I mean.
When it comes to improving our sleep, so many of us are resorting to taking pills and potions when working 24/7, but did you know that using Mother Nature strategically (AKA timed sunshine exposure) can help to improve your sleep?
I know this might sound counterintuitive, but often when we think of ways to improve our sleep, most of the time we think that it’s all about what we’re doing JUST BEFORE BED (which does play a role), however, what we’re doing hours before, leading up to bedtime, also counts.
This is because getting sun exposure helps to reset certain mood-boosting hormones and neurotransmitters – in particular cortisol, dopamine, serotonin and melatonin, which also play a role in our sleep.
For example, when we get sun exposure first thing in the morning it boosts production of:
Today I want to talk about why we need to be prioritising our sleep when working 24/7 – which I know sounds like a bit of a no-brainer when working irregular hours, but surprisingly so many of us aren’t doing it!
Having worked with SO many clients over the years (and from observing my own behaviour)… I know first-hand that sleep tends to get pushed down the ladder of priorities in comparison to other areas of our life.
As one of my clients so openly and honestly shared with me:
“But Audra, I’ve got way more important things that I need to be doing than sleep!”
Ummm. Wrong answer!
So why is prioritising our sleep so important?
Well there are many, many reasons, but probably hands down the biggest is that your immune system is dependant on you getting sufficient quality sleep. In other words getting sufficient quality sleep is an absolute necessity to keep you healthy and well!
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.
Let me explain.
A healthy shift worker – myth or a reality?
In today’s episode, we discuss this exact topic with Roger Sutherland who has been a police officer for over 35 years, and is part of an emergency services family with a son, daughter and partner who also work 24/7.
Some of the things that we discuss include:
- Roger’s heart-warming story of how he wanted to become a police officer since he was 2-years old.
- Some of the health struggles he faced later in his career including being crippled in pain from Sacroiliitis, and what he did to overcome it.
- How years of poor dietary choices, sedentary behaviour and undervaluing his sleep would have been a contributing factor in the development of his poor health and chronic pain.
- What made the most significant change in his health when he began to prioritise it?
- What is LISS training, and how it has helped him to incorporate exercise and movement into his lifestyle, without adding additional stress to his body – especially when on the night shift.
- How a shift in mindset played a pivotal role in helping him to transition from being an unhealthy shift worker, to one that is now healthy.
Links mentioned on the podcast:
Roger’s Instagram Account – https://www.instagram.com/roger_suth/
Roger’s A Healthy Shift Instagram Account – https://www.instagram.com/a_healthy_shift/
The Oura Ring – https://ouraring.com/
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