How To Eat on Night Shift to Reduce Fatigue?

Back in my Uni days of studying to become a nutritionist, I remember overhearing a discussion between a lecturer and student about what would be the ideal meal option for someone who work’s the night shift.

The lecturer’s reply was:

“Just get them to flip their meals around. As in have their big meal around midnight and 1am”.

The thing is, that never really sat right with me.

Given the functionality of our circadian rhythm varies enormously between that of the day versus the night, I instinctively knew that nocturnal food intake, especially in large quantities, was bound to cause havoc on our digestive system. Not ideal, given most shift workers are plagued by gastrointestinal complaints at the best of times!

However, it doesn’t stop at the digestive system.

It can affect our cognition, amongst other things, which if your work involves making complex decisions, operating machinery or performing surgery, can be extremely important.


HSW 45 – Shift Work Cognition with Emily Breese.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:

Do you struggle with poor memory?  Perhaps you leave sticky notes everywhere as a reminder so that you don’t forget things?  Well if you work shift work, chances are you answered “yes” to that question and have experienced bouts of ‘forgetfulness’ thanks to your sleep deprived lifestyle.

In this episode I chat with Emily Breese, who is a PhD student from UK’s Open University, and is based in Milton Keynes, a town just outside of London, in the United Kingdom.  Emily is currently conducting a research study on some of the affects of shift work (including the disruption to our circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle), and how this affects our cognitive function.

Emily is looking for shift workers to be a part this study, so if you’re interested in participating or wanting to learn more, contact Emily via the links below:

Email –

Twitter – @emily_louise548

Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice:

The perfect pick-me-up at 3am!

As a night shifter, do you often feel like you want to curl up into a ball and have a snooze at 3am?  Perhaps you’ve been on a string of early shifts and you can barely string to words together until you’ve had that morning hit of caffeine?!

Well that’s not surprising given sleep deprivation can impair our cognitive function in a number of ways including our reaction times, sleep quality and overall feelings of sleepiness.

In a study published in the Physiology and Behavior Journal (2015), the effects of beetroot juice on 40 healthy subjects, found that the participants performed better on cognitive tests 90 minutes after drinking 450 mL of beetroot juice, as compared to the placebo.

The difference between the beetroot juice and the placebo (which was made of apple and blackcurrant juice), is that beetroots are abundant in dietary nitrates which are broken down by the body into nitric oxide.  This influx of nitric oxide opens up oxygen flow to the brain, or more specifically in the case of this study, helped to enhance prefrontal cortex cerebral blood-flow or CBF.

Nitric oxide has shown to improve endothelial function, reduce blood pressure and increase oxygen to the tissues in the brain so it has multiple benefits.

Nitrate can be found in leafy green vegetables, however beetroot is particularly high in nitrates so may prove to be a great alternative for shift workers who often struggle with decreased cognitive function and alertness, and become reliant on consuming copious amounts of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks.

So please find below my “Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice” which is designed to give you a bit of a pick-me-up during those rather unpleasant night shifts and early shifts!

Whilst I’m calling it a “juice” it’s more like a “smoothie” because it retains all of the fibre from the whole foods which can often get lost in juicing.

Considering shift workers are prone to digestive complaints, often due to diets which are low in fibre as a result of eating lots of processed foods and refined carbohydrates – this “juice” will not only help to keep you alert, but it will keep you feeling fuller for longer not to mention assist in bowel regularity which can be a rather embaressing topic for discussion, but an incredibly important one at that.

Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice (serves 2)

  • 1 medium size beetroot, peeled
  • 1 medium size carrot, peeled
  • 1 pear, peeled and cored
  • 1 cm of fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 1/2 lime, peeled
  • 250 ml of filtered water
  • 2 ice cubes


Place all of the ingredients into a high powered blender and blend for a minimum of 2 minutes.  Check the consistency and if you’d prefer it to be a bit runnier, add more water and blend for another 30 seconds.

This juice is best drunk immediately however when taking it into work the next day (or for your night shift), pour into a secured jar and store in refrigerator to help prevent oxidation.


Audra x



Kazemi, R, Haidarimoghadam, R, Motamedzadeh, M, Golmohamadi, R, Soltanian, A & Zoghipaydar, R 2016, ‘Effects of shift work on cognitive performance, sleep quality and sleepiness among petrochemical control room operators’, Journal of Circadian Rhythms, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 1-8.

Wightman E, Haskell-Ramsay C, Thompson K, Blackwell J, Winyard P, Forster J, Jones A, Kennedy D, 2015, ‘Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans:  A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation’, Physiology and Behavior Journal, vol. 1, no. 149, pp. 149-158.