As someone who works irregular hours, I’m pretty certain that you’d be well aware of how a shift working lifestyle can play havoc on our ability to sleep and sleep well.
Whether it’s due to a rotating roster, long stretches of early or night shifts, or as a result of nasty minimum turnarounds that don’t really allow sufficient opportunity to sleep.
Hmm. Don’t get me started on that one!!
But have you ever considered that your diet may be affecting your ability to sleep as well?
Because most people don’t.
In fact, it never crosses their minds.
We’re usually more worried about how our food choices are going to affect our waistlines (which is a good thing), but the association between how it can impact on our sleep is often overlooked.
So here’s the kicker.
What we eat (or don’t eat) can definitely play a role in how well we sleep (or don’t sleep).
A BIG role.
As a veteran of working 24/7, one of the things which I noticed in my own diet over the years along with my fellow shift workers is that many of us are overfed and undernourished. Undernourished that is in certain nutrients and overfed because we tend to eat our meals when we’re not necessarily hungry – or the complete opposite when we’re so hungry that by the time we get to our allocated meal break we inhale it in great haste!
Our diets also tend to contain high amounts of processed and highly refined foods as a result of wanting to find something which is easy and quick to take into work, or perhaps because we’re feeling too tired and exhausted to cook something after work which is going to nourish and support our sleep-deprived bodies.
So today’s post is going to be on one nutrient in particular and that’s protein.
From a nutritional perspective, we want to aim to have at least one source of protein included in every meal.
Well protein is particularly good for shift workers for the following reasons:
1. It helps to build a strong immune system – one of the biggest struggles we have when working 24/7 is we’re constantly getting sick however studies haven shown that a deficiency of high-quality protein can result in depletion of our immune cells, as well as reducing the body’s ability to make antibodies which bind with bacteria, viruses and other toxins to help to keep the body healthy.
2. It helps to balance our blood sugar levels and keep us full – protein helps to sustain us so that we do not get hungry. As shift workers we need food which is going to help to keep us feeling full so we are less likely to binge and reach for an unhealthy snack. Due to our erratic shifts, we also tend to eat at strange times and can end up going for long durations without eating which is another reason why protein can be so good for us when working 24/7.
So what foods contain protein?
The following are great sources of protein:
- Meat – chicken, beef, lamb, fish, pork and organ meats (heart, kidney, liver)
- Dairy – milk, plain yoghurt and cheese
- Other – beans, lentils, eggs, seeds, nuts, tofu, and tempeh
I’m off to make myself some barramundi with coriander, snow peas and jasmine rice for dinner tonight. After reading this post I hope you get to enjoy some protein in your breakfast, lunch and dinner tonight too!