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.


Struggling From Night Shift Fatigue? Why The Dracula Hormone Can Be Your Best Friend.

As a sleep deprived shift worker it can be an uphill battle to achieve a perfect night’s sleep. Actually near impossible for many people which is why the Dracula hormone or as it’s more commonly known, Melatonin – can be your best friend.

Why is it called the Dracula hormone?

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by our bodies and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Dracula of hormone’ as it only ‘comes out’ when it’s dark.

After tucking yourself into a comfy bed and turning out the lights, your pineal gland starts producing melatonin which then goes about inducing sleepiness. It quite literally puts you to sleep.

So while you’re sleeping, melatonin is responsible for restoring a lot of the physical energy that you used up during the day.

In essence, this makes melatonin a shift worker’s best friend.

The trouble for many shift workers however is they have to sleep during the day which can be very difficult when the sunlight is shimmering in your bedroom. Bright light actually inhibits the release of melatonin and thereby makes it very difficult to fall asleep.

Which is why blocking out your bedroom from sunlight and other bright lights is essential for any shift worker trying to catch up on some lost sleep or after night shift.

Even the light from your digital alarm clock or small rays of sunlight sneaking through the edges of your drapes can keep you awake.

So my 3 Essential Tips for Reducing Night Shift Fatigue include:

1. Block out your bedroom completely – ideally with something like Bedroom Blackout Blinds as they seal off the edges of windows eliminating any light from sneaking through.

2. Buy yourself a comfortable eye mask.

3. Turn off the clock radio, unplug and switch off the home phone as well as your mobile. But before you do, send out a ‘Do Not Disturb Shift Worker Sleeping’ text to all of your friends and family so they know to leave you alone.

Night shift fatigue is certainly something that you’re never going to be able to eliminate completely – particularly if you work a lot of night shifts. But just by following these 3 simple tips, it should help you to feel somewhat ‘normal’ – particularly when you’re able to secure a few hours of good quality, uninterrupted sleep.

Working Night Shift – Have You Ever Fallen Asleep On The Job?

We all know that working night shift can be extremely hard.

Trying to keep your eyes open and stay awake when everybody else is tucked into their comfy bed is certainly a hard thing to do. But have you ever succumbed to falling asleep on the job?

Well if you have, you’re probably not going to admit to it on my blog … and I certainly don’t blame you! But what I will tell you is that I’ve come very close.

I remember working a few 8:30pm – 4:30am shifts at the international airport and about 1am, I was ready to curl up into a ball, switch off the light and have a snooze under my desk. Working night shift is just not fun at all!

Like most of us, I tend to expire around mid-night so getting through those last remaining hours during the night can certainly be physically and mentally exhausting. In fact our brain is least alert between 1am and 6am so trying to do any task – let alone a complex one, is excruciatingly hard at that time of the night.

Your level of concentration and memory is also severely compromised when you work night shift.

The harsh reality however, is that working night shift is something that cannot be avoided in many occupations.

So besides stating the obvious, what are some simple things that you can do to help reduce the impacts of night shift?

1. Try and reduce working night shift as much as possible – no more then 2 shifts in a row.

2. Snack lightly during your shift and have a small meal at the midnight break. 3am to 4am is when you will feel most tired so this is a good time to have a snack with a protein, small amount of whole grain and a fruit and/or vegetable.

3. Just before you go to sleep, eat a small light snack that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat as this will help you sleep. For example, a small bowl of cooked oatmeal, toast and jam or cereal and milk.

4. And finally, limit caffeinated drinks during night shift, especially in the last half of the shift so that you are ready to sleep when you get home.

There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home after night shift, and not being able to catch up on those long lost zeds!

Night Shift Fatigue – Getting Stuck Behind A House Driving Home!

Driving home after night shift can certainly be a struggle. Apart from getting stuck in traffic congestion created by our ‘Nine-to-Five Cousins’ as they head off to work, the streaming rays of sunshine as they pass through your windscreen can certainly make you want to pry your eyes open with a set of toothpicks!

But have you ever got stuck behind a house driving home after night shift?

A little peculiar? Well I thought so too, until it actually happened.

You see I’d just finished my 2030 – 0430 shift at the airport and I was looking forward to getting home, having a quick shower and tucking myself into my nice comfy bed. I could almost feel the warmth of my donah cover some 20kms from home.

I’m actually quite lucky because I don’t have to travel too far to get to work, so just like any other day I left the airport and headed over the Gateway Bridge embarking on my journey home.

Now you can understand my dismay when I got stuck behind a house that was being moved during the night (or the very early hours of the morning – depending on which way you look at it), as I crossed the bridge on my way home.

Thanks to the gigantic ‘Wide Load’ sign that was fixated to the back of the house, and the multiple police cars that were kindly escorting it to its destination, there was no way that I was going to be able to sneakily overtake this house, as it spanned the entire width of the bridge.

So as a “law abiding citizen”, I followed this house over the bridge at snails pace, and all I could think about was how I longed to jump into my nice comfy bed, rest my weary head on my pillow and nod off into the Land of Zeds.

So my advice for you today is that the next time you’re on your way home after night shift, pack an extra supply of snacks, a travel mug and your favourite CD’s to listen too. .

Even better if you can carry an extra bottle of water, because dehydration really increases your fatigue. .

I’ve certainly learned that it’s always good to be prepared just in case you get stuck in a traffic jam, a typhoon, a snow storm, or in my case – behind a house!

As shift workers, we all know there is nothing worse then being tired AND hungry, as you embark on your journey home after night shift.

P.S: Oh, and you might want to keep a pack of Wet Wipes stored in your car to give your face a once over. Along with winding your window down – this and the fresh air really works a treat at helping you stay awake!